mother's maiden name and her date of birth," Kartalyan-Oganesian
said. "I have very good credit, which worries me, because they can
request high lines of credit."
Another woman, Cathy (not her real name) was betrayed in August by
her nanny, who after stealing her employer's personal information and
obtaining a bogus driver's license, brazenly ran up $10,000 in
credit-card debt at several department stores -- including two in
"She quit on a Sunday and started shopping on a Tuesday," Cathy
said. "It was just so frustrating to think she came into my house and
set me up."
Similar horror stories are played out at an alarming rate in
Burbank, Glendale and the foothills, where identity thieves have
replaced the everyday burglar in the eyes of law enforcement.
The often nameless and faceless culprits steal personal
information and use it to open bank and cellular-phone accounts,
obtain driver's licenses, manufacture new checks, and even buy or
They rarely pay for their crimes. Their victims, though, are left
to clean up the wreckage, often spending months and years trying to
repair damaged credit.
"At the rate we're going right now, it's probably not going to be
too long before everybody who lives in the state of California is
going to know a victim of identity theft," Glendale Police Det. Bob
Zahreddine said. "It's that bad."
Identity theft -- the unauthorized use of personal information to
obtain credit, goods, services or medical information -- has
increased by 130% in Glendale since last year, from 177 cases in 2001
to 381 through Dec. 17.
"It's surpassed anything else that we handle," said Zahreddine,
one of four detectives who investigate financial crimes. "The chances
of getting caught are pretty slim, and even if you get caught, the
penalties are pretty lax."
In Burbank, violent crime is down, but identity theft is up by
more than 60%. Through November, 261 cases of identity theft had been
reported, compared to 160 last year.
"We are absolutely overwhelmed," said Burbank Police Det. Matthew
Ferguson, who estimates the average identity crook gets more than