While boarding a flight around 8 pm Friday at the O’Hare airport for what would have likely been a fun-filled Las Vegas vacation, four Chicago women were detained.
Cook County court documents state the troop – Latonya T. Darwish, 37, Saunsierica L. Duncan, 19, Mahogany R. Banks, 21, and Tabitha A. Harris, 36 – were all arrested and charged with identity theft.
Darwish, Duncan, and Banks all face identity theft charges while Harris faces a charge of aggravated identity theft, according to the Chicago Tribune. In 2004, Congress enacted the Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act, which increased criminal penalties for identity theft.
The crime of “aggravated identity theft” refers to using stolen identification for crimes beyond the realm of standard identity theft, including terrorism.
Aggravated identity theft offenses carry a mandatory sentence enhancement of two years, and identity theft related to terrorism carries an additional five-year penalty. These penalties are added to standard related sentences.
The tickets for the trip had been purchased using a stolen Discover card. At the time of their arrest, each were in possession of stolen identification, credit cards, other counterfeit IDs, and a set of car keys reported stolen from a Hertz rental car in Georgia.
During their bond hearing, Darwish was ordered to be held in lieu of a $75,000 bond; Duncan was ordered held on a $25,000 bond; and Banks and Harris were ordered held in lieu of a $40,000 bond and $50,000 bond.
The investigation is still ongoing by the Chicago police’s division of financial crimes.
Identity theft, which has been on the rise, is the action of stealing someone’s identity. The perpetrator pretends to be someone else by assuming that person’s identity in order to access resources such as obtaining credit and other benefits in that person’s name.
Identity theft occurs when someone uses another’s personally identifying information – name, social security number, and credit card number – without the true persons’ permission in order to commit fraud or other crimes.
The victim – the person whose identity has been assumed by the thief – can suffer adverse consequences and be held financially accountable for the perpetrator’s actions. Several free and monthly fee services have since been made available to monitor and protect one’s identity, and laws are continuously being established in hopes of adequately penalizing offenders.
Authorities recommend frequently checking credit reports as well as using the aforementioned tracking tools with alerts. Passwords on online accounts should be periodically changed and documents with personal information should be shredded or burned if not needed. Avoid giving out personal information in situations that are unnecessary or over the phone to people claiming to be from financial or federal agencies.
In the US, people ages 18 to 24 are the highest group at risk. One in 10 US consumers have experienced some type of identity theft. Nearly 38 percent of victims have had a credit card or debit card number stolen, and 48 percent of theft is the result of a stolen wallet or illegally accessed paperwork or account information. Approximately 12 percent of ID theft victims ultimately have warrants issued for their arrest for crimes committed in their names, reports Identity Hawk.
On average, a victim can spend 330 hours and more than $1,000 to clear his/her name while repairing credit. More than 32 percent of victims spend up to six months dealing with creditors – writing letters, making phone calls, and signing affidavits.
For victims of identity theft, the ordeal manifests itself in all sorts of horrible, stressful ways as 70 percent experience little success removing the fraudulent information from their credit report. Nearly 11 percent have an impaired ability to find employment due to the negative impact to their credit. If not upsetting enough, 13 percent know the person who criminally assumed their identity – whether it was a relative, friend, or co-worker.
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