Identity theft that doesn't stop with your credit

How thieves are using your social security number

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A Jackson County woman faces hundreds of dollars in traffic tickets and even an arrest warrant. But she says she was never even behind the wheel.

For the last two years, Curteca Wesley has received a notice for a traffic ticket almost every other month for a host of different violations including speeding, no proof of insurance and failure to provide identification. But what’s most frustrating for the Lee’s Summit mother is that she says she was never behind the wheel.

"It’s can’t believe this keeps happening to me. My license is now suspended and I have warrants out for my arrest," she said.

Wesley’s purse was stolen from a Grandview church in 2009 along with her social security card. She believes this is what has led to a nightmare of traffic violations that could put her in jail.

Wesley has showed up to almost every court date and has gotten nearly all of her tickets dismissed. She said officers in court have verified that she wasn’t the driver. According to Wesley, an officer told her that a mystery driver is giving out her social security number when she gets pulled over.

"Just knowing that this girl has my social and she knows it by heart is the scary part because with that you can do anything," she said. 

Wesley found out the license plate number associated with several traffic stops and notified the Kansas City Police Department and the Kansas City Prosecutor’s Office but for the most part, their hands are tied.

"Unfortunately it's certainly a hassle for the person that this happens to but there's not a lot of recourse other than to come to court. All we can really do is eliminate her as the person who was actually stopped and got the tickets. We can't proceed on prosecution based on somebody's word or speculation that someone else is presenting their identification," Kansas City Prosecutor Keith Ludwig said.

According to Ludwig, paperless tickets make it challenging to verify the driver’s identity if they do not present a license when pulled over.

"In the era of paper tickets, it was fairly common that if a person was stopped and did not present identification, the officer would take their fingerprint. It wouldn’t tell us who that person is but it helps to eliminate the defendant when they come in," Ludwig said.

He says if officers pull someone over for a minor traffic violation, they are often not on the lookout for identity theft.

"It's my understanding that in a situation where a license or an identification is not provided, that police will often pull that record and sometimes it's helpful, sometimes it's not. The photo that was taken for the license could be old and you can't always look at that photo and say it’s not the driver. If somebody has your social and can give your identifiers, everything else should match," Ludwig said.

Traffic attorney David Langston said there are things that drivers can do if they believe someone is using their identity. He suggests drivers should file a police report and contact the Department of Revenue for a change in license numbers. He also advises drivers to leave their social security cards at home. 

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