Jonathan Eugene Young, who works at Walmart, can tell you firsthand about identity theft as he had his identity stolen and it took him over two years and two trips to North Carolina to resolve it.
Young was first aware of the problem on Nov. 7, 2010 when he was traveling northbound on Highway 51 Bypass after he had just dropped his mother off at work. He was driving his sister's vehicle and had his niece and nephew in the car with him when he was observed to be in violation of the light law (headlights were not on or were inoperable) by Sgt. Buck of the Dyersburg Police Department, who conducted a routine traffic stop. A license check revealed that Young's North Carolina-issued license had been suspended for failing to appear in a North Carolina Court for a slew of traffic violations incurred on Nov. 27, 2009 including speeding, driving while impaired and driving on a revoked license. In total, Young had 22 failures to appear on his North Carolina record.
Young was taken into custody and charged with driving on a suspended license. All the while he continued to insist on his innocence, saying there must be some kind of mistake.
"I was sitting there shocked," said Young. "I never have had so much as a traffic ticket. I've never even been pulled over."
Young maintained that there had to be an error and someone else must have used his information and received a DUI. He hired Scott G. Kirk, an attorney out of Jackson to help him in the matter. In correspondence Kirk sent to Young he confirmed the North Carolina department of Motor Vehicles would work with him to resolve the matter but he needed to present himself in North Carolina.
Young attempted to resolve the matter without making the trip to North Carolina. He hired the law firm Biesecker, Tripp, Sink and Fritts in Lexington, N.C. to assist him with the case. William Fritts was among the lawyers that worked on the case and in correspondence dated July 27, 2012 he informed Young that he spoke with State Highway Patrolman Matt Jackson, who was involved in the original stop. Jackson had a photograph of the individual he took into custody on Nov. 27, 2009 and upon seeing the photo of the individual taken into custody and seeing Young's photo on file with the state's DMV they both arrived at the same conclusion that the individual arrested that night was not Young.
Despite the evidence the assistant district attorney involved in the case, Jamie Laprad, was adamant that Young present himself in court. Young finally had his day in court on Aug. 13, 2012 where his case was dismissed.
But the question remained, who was passing themselves off as Jonathan Eugene Young?
The gentleman that was picked up that evening back in 2009 was identified as Brian Justin Byrd, 26, a resident of Knightdale, N.C. and a friend of Young. When Young realized he knew the individual that stole his identity, Young said he felt betrayed.
"I feel it was a lesson learned," said Young. "You have to watch the people around you."
Young says that Byrd contacted him after Young's name was cleared and apologized for what he had done. Young was disappointed at his friend's mistake and told him the damage was already done.
"You don't do things like that to friends," said Young.
A motion was filed by Laprad and granted by the court to have the citation changed to Byrd's name. The ordeal cost Young close to $3,000 in expenses between attorney fees and travel expenses.
Young says he would not have been able to clear his name without the help of Buck, who gave him a starting point on the night of his arrest, and Assistant District Attorney Jim Horner who was so incredibly patient with him and helped him through the legal minefield.
"I never want to go through what I went through to get my license cleared," said Young. "It has been a wake-up call that I never want to get myself in that kind of trouble where I am in jail. It was not a pleasant experience."
With over 1.8 million Americans experiencing identity theft in 2011 many consumers are looking for the best ways to protect their information. The U.S. Department of Justice gives consumers some tips on their website suggesting that for starters, consumers should remember the word "SCAM".
* Stingy: Be stingy about giving out personal information to others unless you have a reason to trust them, regardless of where you are.
* Check: Check your financial information regularly, and look for what should be there and what shouldn't.
* Ask: Ask periodically for a copy of your credit report.
* Maintain: Maintain careful records of your banking and financial accounts.
The US DOJ suggests that you contact the following agencies in the event that you suspect identity theft:
* The Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-ID THEFT
* Your local post office if you suspect someone has submitted a change-of-address form to redirect your mail.
* The Social Security Administration at 1-800-269-0271 if you suspect that your Social Security number is being used for fraudulent purposes.
* The Internal Revenue Service at 1-800-829-0433 for improper use of identification information with tax violations.
If you are a victim of identity theft immediately report it to your local police office so that they may file a police report, which will be crucial as you try to recover from this theft.