How do you know if you are a victim of identity theft?
Bellingham Police arrested a 52-year-old woman they believe stole another woman’s identity, used it to create a fake driver’s license and credit card and attempted to rent an apartment.
Sarah Jane Mercer was booked into Whatcom County Jail Wednesday, Aug. 29, on suspicion of first-degree criminal impersonation, second-degree possession of stolen property and manufacturing a forged driver’s license with intent to commit forgery or identity theft.
Officers were called to an apartment complex after Mercer had turned in a suspicious rental application, Lt. Claudia Murphy told The Bellingham Herald. Mercer reportedly filled out the application and appeared to have the correct personal information for the complex to do a rental background check.
But during the check, the identity theft victim called to ask why her information was being used to apply for an apartment.
Murphy said an investigation found that Mercer had obtained the victim’s personal information and used it to create the fake license and credit card.
Whatcom County Superior Court records show Mercer has previous convictions for possession of a controlled substance, bail jumping and forgery from 2000 and 2010. According to Skagit County Superior Court Records, Mercer has previous convictions for possession of a controlled substance, third-degree theft, first-degree criminal impersonation and DUI from 2011.
According to a study conducted by Javelin Strategy & Research, 16.7 million Americans were identity fraud victims in 2017 — up 1.3 million from 2016. Fraud losses, according to the study, were $16.8 million — up 3.7% from $16.2 million in 2016.
Though there are no hard statistics about how often identity theft is used to obtain a rental unit, corelogic.com surveyed 30 clients who own or manage multifamily rental properties nationwide. They found the 75 percent of the surveyed companies said they had been victimized by identity fraud.
Making that even more painful for landlords, corelogic.com reported the average cost per eviction ranges from $5,000 to $10,000.
The crime also obviously can cause problems for identity theft victims, idshield.com reported in a 2017 blog post, possibly making it difficult for them to rent.
The post suggested that if you believe someone may have used your information when renting to contact consumer agencies that collect tenant and rental information:
▪ CoreLogic SafeRent: 888-333-2413 or through an online form at www.corelogic. com.
▪ Experian Rent Bureau: Use the form found online at experian.com/rentbureau.
▪ First Advantage: 888-215-3727 or find more information at fadv.com.
The blog post also suggested asking rental properties which service they use to screen prospective tenants.