Teenagers and identity theft

So I was reading about a teenager who is being charged with first-degree identity theft, second-degree possession of a forged instrument and third-degree grand larceny, and I started wondering if this is a trend. Instead of shoplifting, perhaps teenagers who are drawn to crime are finding it easier to rip off someone's identity.

Based on my limited research, I'd give a cautious, "probably not." Not yet.

In the last month, there have been some interesting arrests involving identity theft in the United States, but I only found three, and it's a big country:

  • This aforementioned teenager is 18 years old. Stavros Kompogiorgas in Long Island stole 28 checks from one of his friend's fathers, forging signatures to steal more than $10,000.
  • Another 18 year old, this time in Idaho, was arrested after he tried to buy a car using someone else's identity.
  • A 15 and 16-year-old in Rhinebeck, New York, were recently arrested for identity theft. Back in February and then again this summer, they bought three bicycles, a Sony Play Station 3, several cell phones and service plans for the phones, iPods, GPS Spyware tracking systems and other electronic equipment.
But while teenagers probably aren't going on a rampage, raiding other people's identities, they are at risk to be victims themselves. There was recently an interesting article in the Dallas Morning News about ID theft against teenagers, and children are even more juicy, albeit rare, targets for thieves, since as one expert quoted explained: "If someone steals my child's identity, they can use that for 10 to 15 years before they [the child] apply for a loan and they find that their credit is really not good."

And I don't even know what category to put this in -- but I just have to mention it for anyone who hasn't heard of Wendy Brown, who was arrested earlier this month for stealing her 15-year-old daughter's identity. Why? The 33-year-old wanted to go back to school and try out for the cheerleading team, and so that's what she did. Her daughter wasn't living with her, and so Ms. Brown registered for classes under her daughter's name and in the weeks before school began, made the cheerleading squad at Ashwaubenon High School and attended several practices as well as a party at the cheerleading coach's house.

(Why does this sort of remind me of the plot of that Drew Barrymore 1999 movie, Never Been Kissed?)

Ms. Brown, who is now facing a possible 12-year prison sentence, said she wanted to re-live her high school days and get a diploma, though one wonders how sincere she was about that. She was caught and discovered by truancy officers after she missed her first day of classes.

At least she can get her G.E.D. in jail.

Geoff Williams is a freelance journalist and the author of C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America (Rodale).
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