The Main Stream

Mar 28, 2012 11:00 PM by Danielle Lerner

Identity theft plagues Southern Arizona residents

It is a reminder to keep a tight grip on your personal information. A recent report from the Federal Trade Commission shows Arizona has the fourth highest rate of identity theft per capita in the nation. The Pima County Sheriff's Department deals with it daily. Just three months into the year and there have already been about 30 reported cases of identity theft in Pima County. The victims range in age from 21-81.

Karen Ross-Glaser is still trying to recover from having her identity stolen four year ago. She says it destroyed her credit, her reputation and her life.

"We've gone through hell, literally, I don't know how else to describe it," said Ross-Glaser.

She says her half sister, Desiree Ross, stole her identity.

"DMV told me they would not give me a license, couldn't figure out why, they told me I already had one on file," she said.

Turns out Ross got a driver's license in Karen's name. It was suspended after Ross accrued several traffic citations all across the state and the damage did not stop there.

"My file shows that I do methamphetamine because of her," Ross-Glaser said.

Ross was booked into the Pinal County Jail in Karen's name too, charged with forgery, drug possession and child abuse. She also wrote more than two dozen fake checks across the country.

"I can't even begin to describe what it's done to our family, I really can't," said Ross-Glaser.

Karen's case is extreme but Dawn Barkman of the Pima County Sheriff's Department says it is not unheard of.

"Southern Arizona is one of the largest identity theft areas around, we see it a lot," Barkman said. "It's a very difficult crime to actually prosecute."

That is why deputies promote prevention and education, urging residents to withhold their private information from just about everyone. Strangers, friends, even some family members. They also recommend using a cross shredder to destroy personal documents but sometimes not even that is enough.

"These criminals will go back into the garbage and they'll actually tape the stuff back together, glue it back together, and still find your identity," Barkman said.

It is also a good idea to check your credit report to try and catch any abnormal activity early on. As for Karen she is still trying to clear her name with various law enforcement agencies on the local and federal levels, but it has been a very slow process.

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