Identity theft is and has been on the rise for quite some time. However, whereas most people know about and take measures to protect against the most common forms of identity theft, such as debit and credit card identity theft, many are unaware of the lesser known criminal identity theft. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, criminal identity theft occurs when one person uses another’s name, documentation or other identifying information in the event of an arrest. The information the arrested person provides to the law then becomes part of the criminal justice system. 

Though past records indicate criminals have presented stolen identities for more serious crimes such as assaults, DUIs and various felonies, the most common instances of criminal identity theft involve misdemeanors and traffic violations. As a result, many Pennsylvania residents receive tickets in the mail for stops of which they have no recollection. 

Problems arise when the imposter fails to respond to the traffic ticket or appear in court. When the court date comes and goes without the alleged offender’s acknowledgement, the courts will issue a bench warrant. Bench warrants for speeding tickets and other minor violations often go unheeded by law enforcement. However, if a police officer ever stops or arrests the real holder of the identity, or if the person ever applies for a loan, job or marriage license, the bench warrant may cause significant headache. 

PennDOT Driver & Vehicle Services explains what state residents should do if they receive a traffic violation or notification in their name that they did not commit. A recipient should contact the court in the county in which the violation occurred to request a hearing. He or she should also notify the police. Both PennDOT and the police will work together to prove the recipient is the wrongful defendant and clear both his or her name and driving record.