We've noted several times the disastrous mess that identity theft leaves its victims to clean up. The damage fraudsters do can have effects that linger on long after the standard post-data-leak offering of a year's free credit monitoring, particularly as credit bureaus don't make it easy to correct errors on credit reports and banks aren't always helpful. Payments News points to an interesting story from the SF Chronicle several days ago that describes how one identity thief was caught -- by her victim. The victim was in Starbucks one morning, and noticed a woman wearing a coat that looked exactly like one she'd seen in a security photo taken at a store when one of her credit cards was being used. She called 911 and chased the woman on her own for 45 minutes, then when a cop finally showed up, the thief was arrested. Given that more than six months had passed since the initial theft, it doesn't seem like the banks' investigators or the police were making much headway in their investigations, and without the victim's determination and a healthy bit of luck, it's hard to see the fraudster getting caught. Still, her conviction and subsequent sentencing aren't exactly impressive: a judge sentenced her to time already served of 44 days and gave her three years' probation. The fact that she was already on probation didn't really seem to stop her from committing identity theft in this case, so it's hard to be optimistic it will stop her in the future. With identity theft a problem that continues to grow, this tale is hardly confidence inspiring, and it's clear that much work needs to be done in both the prevention of identity theft, as well as the investigation and prosecution of those who perpetrate it.
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