Although we’re very good at tax and accounting, when it comes to legal matters, it always pays to consult a good attorney and, in this case, a sitting Magistrate Judge.
Judge Kathy Brown Valencia is our guest editor this week. She serves as Magistrate Judge, Post 2 (county-wide), and is the incumbent candidate for the upcoming re-election.
Although we’ve addressed the financial aspect of identity theft in past posts, what would happen if someone stole something more valuable than your money?
What if they stole your right to vote?
Judge Kathy offers some helpful advice on this subject:
What if you arrive at your precinct to vote next month and you are turned away because you are on record as having “requested an address change to a Cobb County address” according to the official records? What if this alarming news contradicts the fact that you have lived and voted in Fayette County for many years and have NOT requested any type of address change whatsoever? This startling situation happened to a friend of mine (“Mark”) who went to vote in-person at his precinct last fall. Mark discovered that he had become yet another victim of a new form of Identity Fraud.
I am Kathy Brown Valencia, one of Fayette County’s four Magistrate Judges, and we often deal with the crime of Identity Fraud. When most people hear about Identity Fraud, they often think about the typical scenario, which is when someone uses your credit card while pretending to be you. Recently, however, criminal activity has expanded to situations like the one above, which are more complex, and could affect you as you go to vote. Mark learned that his identifying information appears to have been released as a part of a credit reporting company’s data breach. The breach appears to have divulged not just credit card numbers, but also driver’s license numbers, social security numbers, home phone numbers, birthdates, bank account numbers, and addresses. In Mark’s case, the criminal used Mark’s stolen data to apply for a license and/or change the address on the driver’s license. Then by checking and/or changing the “motor voter” section to a new address, the criminal stopped Mark from voting in the last election. (Note: To date, the criminal has not been caught at the “new address.”)
As to what you can do to protect yourself, go to the Secretary of State’s website and make sure that you are still registered to vote in your own precinct, especially if you did not receive an Application for an Absentee Ballot in the mail. Report any discrepancies to the Elections Office and law enforcement. Make sure you are ready to vote when the time comes. Finally, I am trying to research forms of Identity Fraud. If you have been a victim and would like to send your story to me, please do so by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or sending me a private message at Facebook.com/kathybrownvalencia2020