Miss New Mexico warns of ID theft

By Paula Cronic: PNT Staff Writer

A victim of the growing identity theft problem, Miss New Mexico 2006 Christina Hall is helping others avoid a similar situation.

“When I was 19 my identity was stolen by a girl who renewed her driver’s license under my name,” said Hall, a 2005 Eastern New Mexico University graduate. “I had to prove who I was to get another driver’s license and it was really difficult to get that information cleared.”

Hall told ENMU students Friday she had to call the FBI, file a police report, get fingerprinted and provide copies of her birth certificate to prove her identity.

According to New Mexico Securities Division investor Bob Hagan, people between the ages of 18 and 29 make up one-third of the identity theft cases reported nationwide.

Students at Eastern New Mexico University listened Friday, as Hall addressed them about the risks of identity theft and what to do should they ever become a victim.

Hall, a 2005 graduate of ENMU, said she went through a difficult time while having to prove her identity after he problem. She ended up having to call the FBI, file a police report, get fingerprinted and provide copies of her birth certificate.

According to a NMSD informational pamphlet, handed out at the seminar, identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in both the United States and around the world. The pamphlet also said this form of fraud wound up costing American businesses and consumers an estimated $400 million last year alone. The average victim will spend close to $1,400 in expenses and 600 hours of time clearing his or her name after their personal financial information is stolen or misused.
Since she has first-hand experience, Hall said she decided worked directly with the securities division to bring helpful laws to the legislature to combat identity theft.

“There is one law that with the help of legislators was passed and that law is making identity theft a fourth-degree felony rather than a misdemeanor,” Hall said.

Hagan said, according to the Federal Trade Commission, New Mexico is ranked 12th in terms of the number of identity theft cases reported per 100,000 in population.

“Identity theft is a serious concern both in New Mexico and all across the United States,” Hagan said. “The best way to combat the problem is by raising public awareness about the issue and helping people learn how they can defend themselves against becoming victims or what to do if they do become victims.”

He said one way the securities division is that is by assisting Hall in speaking to communities, particularly to young people and students.

“Young people are kind of putting their financial identities out there by applying for credit cards, renting apartments, buying cars etc.,” Hagan said. “They are doing a lot of things in which their financial information is becoming a matter of record at various places.”

Hall and Hagan say they plan to take their program to students and citizens across the state this year.