Can you be in two places at once? Is there another person that looks exactly like you (twins don’t count)? Have you ever received something in the mail that wasn’t yours? If you’re wondering what these three questions have in common, it’s - Identity theft.
Most people think of identity theft in the context of someone getting your personal information and opening a fraudulent account or accessing one that you already have. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) had more than 1.4 million reports totaling nearly $1.5 billion in losses during 2018.
Another type of identity theft is what happened to Keya Donnell. A woman decided to use Donnell’s name when it was convenient or, more specifically when she was being pulled over by police, “They gave my name during the traffic stop,” said Donnell.
The woman was pulled over by a Charlotte/Mecklenburg Police Officer. When the officer asked to see the woman’s driver’s license she told the officer she did not have it on her. She then proceeded to give the officer Donnell’s name and date of birth. The officer took the information and issued the woman a citation before sending her on her way.
“I don’t understand how you can get pulled over and just give your name and date of birth and get away with that,” said Donnell.
A few weeks after that citation was written Donnell received a summons to appear in court. Confused about what was going on, Donnell had to prove she was not the woman who received the citation.
“This woman was pretending to be me and getting away with it,” said Donnell.
A couple of years earlier Donnell was robbed, and the person stole her purse. Donnell immediately canceled the credit cards and figured that was the end of it. It now appears the man who robbed her gave that driver's license or at least the information on it to a woman who is now using it.
“She knows where I live and my date of birth,” said Donnell.
That information has worked when the woman was pulled over by law enforcement on three separate occasions, once by a North Carolina State Trooper, “It is unfortunate and not fair to the victim,” said DPS Master Trooper Brandon Baker.
It appears in all three instances the woman told the officer she did not have her identification on her and then told the officer she was Donnell, providing them with her date of birth, ‘We try to do the best job possible,” said Master Trooper Baker.
What’s frustrating for Donnell is that most officers have laptops in their cars that allow them to access DMV records including a person’s driver's license. Yet somehow this woman was able to trick three officers, all writing a citation for Keya Donnell.
“I’ve had to go to court several times to get this cleared up,” said Donnell.
DPS and Charlotte/Mecklenburg tell WFMY News 2 they do not have a specific policy when it comes to a driver not presenting any identification. It is apparently up to the individual officer to determine how to handle a situation like that.
A former law enforcement officer we spoke with said more needed to be done when the woman could not present a proper identification, “They should have gone further, they should have looked into it further,” said Randy Powers.
Powers spent 40 years in law enforcement, “They have access to so much information,” said Powers. In almost all situations officers can pull up a person’s driving record and criminal history. The officer can then use that information to help verify if the person in the car truly is the person, they say they are. An example would be to question the driver about tickets or crimes they did or did not commit. An officer could even ask about a crime the driver did not commit to see if they would admit to it. The logic being they would know if they were arrested for shoplifting in Memphis or wherever.
We don’t know how much information any of these officers pulled up before issuing a citation and letting the woman drive off. We also don’t know if the officer’s laptops were working on the day the woman was pulled over. Officers can, however, ask dispatchers to run information if they can’t for some reason.
We also learned there was dash cam video in one of the stops, but the officer can only be heard talking to the woman. There's apparently no video of her because she remained in the car. Video is deleted every year and by the time we asked about it, it had been more than two years.
Donnell tells us she was able to see and hear the video, “You hear him (the officer) explain the ticket and court date and then was like alright have a great night,” said Donnell.
Since the last incident, Donnell has worked with the Charlotte/Mecklenburg Police to prevent this from happening again. Donnell’s identity is now “flagged” in the system and an identity fraud warning should come up when an officer or trooper pulls up her information.
If she or anyone claiming to be her can not present a valid identification card they must tell police a specific password that has now been assigned to her, “They (police) told me don’t forget it because if you do, you’re going to jail,” said Donnell.
The hope is this will prevent Donnell from having to appear in court again to prove it was not her given the ticket or citation. It may also help police catch the person impersonating her if she tries it again.
The biggest concern for Donnell moving forward is that this doesn’t work for some reason. If the officer’s laptop is down and they don’t get assistance from dispatch, there is a chance the woman could once again impersonate Donnell and get away with it.
Police have assured Donnell they will do all they can to make sure this does not happen again. Donnell joked about the password she chose, thinking it would have been funny if it was LOCKHERUP, referring to the woman who has done this three times already.
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