It is not unusual for someone to steal another person’s identity and then use that person’s name to obtain credit or government benefits. It is, however, quite unusual for someone to steal another person’s identity and then have the nerve to go to court to have the victim’s name changed legally to the name of the identity thief, but this is exactly what Ramon Perez-Rivera is accused of doing according to a federal court indictment in Kansas. Perez-Rivera, an illegal immigrant, is accused in the indictment of stealing the identity of a man identified only as T.A.P in the indictment and using the victim’s Social Security number and identity to obtain food stamps and Medicaid benefits as well as register to vote, get an American passport and a driver’s license in the name of the victim. However, Perez-Rivera did not stop there. According to prosecutors, Perez-Rivera filed a name change in 1996 in a California court and obtained a court order legally changing his name from the name of his victim to his actual name of Ramon Perez-Rivera. This enabled him to have the victim’s Social Security number reassigned to his real name and even to have the victim’s birth certificate changed to reflect his real name. It wasn’t until he tried to obtain Supplemental Security Income benefits through the Social Security Administration that his crimes were discovered.
Your Social Security number is a key to identity theft. Armed with a Social Security number of his victim, it is a relatively easy task for an identity thief to steal the identity of his victim so the first thing we should all be conscious of is to keep our Social Security number as safe as possible. Don’t carry your Social Security card with you in your wallet or purse and limit the number of places to which you provide it to only those places that truly need this information. Your doctor does not need your Social Security number although many ask for it. In fact, with the medical industry in general more vulnerable to hackers than even the retail industry, providing your Social Security number to your physician is a dangerous thing to do. The Social Security Administration sends each of us an annual accounting of our benefits and you should examine this carefully each year for evidence of identity theft.