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Identity Theft?

Yesterday I got a letter from a collection agency saying that I owe $66 for a parking ticket from Philadelphia issued six years ago.  On it was my car's license & VIN numbers.  (I don't own the car anymore.)  But I've never been to Philly, and neither has my car!  Is this identity theft?  I Googled and can't seem to find any info about this type of scam.  Anyone hear of anything like this?  What would you do? 

anon
Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Did you own the car 6 years ago?

Michael Kale
Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Sounds more like auto theft.

Steve Barbour
Wednesday, April 07, 2004

$66? You got off lightly if so.

Never had a ticket that low before!
Wednesday, April 07, 2004

"Did you own the car 6 years ago?"

Yes.

anon
Wednesday, April 07, 2004

anon,

I think it's possible, but unlikely, that your situation is identity theft.  To be sure, you might try to request all 3 your credit reports -- it's free in many states.

However, I think it's more likely that your bill is just a collection agency "fishing" for money.  Sometimes, collection agencies will send bogus bills for small amounts, hoping that the recipient will pay the bill without researching the claim.

Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, you have the right (within 30 days, I believe)  to force the collection agency to prove that you owe this money.  Likely, they cannot, and will go away.

For more information, see the following links:

http://clarkhoward.com/topics/drop_dead_letter.html

Norbert Burger
Wednesday, April 07, 2004

How could it be identity theft if they have your VIN and license plate number?  What would be the scam, someone parked his own car illegally and got there in time to see the meter maid writing him up so he says "don't bother looking at my car for information, I'll fill this ou for you"?

Is it possible someone borrowed your car for an unauthorized road-trip?  Do you leave within reasonable driving distance of Philly?

If you do, and the unauthorized road-trip explanation doesn't work, then here's my explanation:

You are lying to us.  You really got the ticket and then moved out of the area figuring it would never catch up to you.  It has and you are looking for a way out of it so you get on this board to see if there is some way you can plausibly convince a judge that it was identity theft.

name withheld out of cowardice
Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Be aware, parking fines in Philadelphia escalate every 10 days or so.  I always take the train in so I don't have an issue with it, but my girlfriend once ended up with a 200+ ticket that started out as a 15 dollar parking ticket.  Yikes!  And no, you can't negotiate with them to get the price down.  So whatever you do, resolve it quickly.

Lou
Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Sounds like the paperwork for the transfer of title either didn't get filed correctly or didn't get filed at all. This is fairly common, but not identity theft.

  
Wednesday, April 07, 2004

They typically (at least here) don't write down VIN's when they write tickets (probably added during the step when they match the license plate with the registered owner's name).

I'd assume that the person who wrote the ticket (or the data entry clerk who entered it into the database) made a mistake on either the license # or the state which resulted in your car being mis-identified.

Ask to see a copy of the original ticket. That should show the make/model/color of the car - if it doesn't match yours, you should be clear (after a ton of paperwork...).

RocketJeff
Wednesday, April 07, 2004

This sort of thing happened to my parents once; they sold a car, and the auto mechanic they sold it to threw the license plates in the trash.

Someone else retrieved said plates and stuck them on his own car.  In Missouri the plates are assigned to people, not cars, so in the mail a year or two later my parents got a parking ticket for a car they'd never heard of.  (Amusingly, they also got a nasty note threatening to tow they car if they didn't hurry up and move it.)

So (1) in PA, do the plates go with the person or the car?  (2)  When you sold the car, did you destroy the plates or move them to another car?  Or could someone else have gotten hold of them?

Kyralessa
Wednesday, April 07, 2004

He admitted he owned the car at the time the tickets were issued so it couldn't be a thrown away license plates deal.

name withheld out of cowardice
Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Surely to get the VIN you've got to lift the bonnet (hood) up  Then that has to match-ish with registration (owner).  I can't ever remember a copper lifting the bonnet up on me (so to speak). 

Oh BTW it’s certainly not identify theft, but ask the car…

Marc Dominic
Wednesday, April 07, 2004

You don't have to lift the hood to read the VIN on any of my cars, not even the 1969 Volkswagen Squareback.

Martha
Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Philly is infamous for incorrect parking tickets.  The official explanation is that they read the license plate number wrong when writing the ticket for a different car.  I got a ticket for parking in Philly around the same time you mention that this ticket came from.  The interesting thing is that I actually worked in Philly at the time but always took the train in and didn't drive in once.  I seem to remember calling up, telling them I've never driven in Philly, and having them dismiss the ticket with no problem.

SomeBody
Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Oh, in addition, they can probably look up things like VIN number just from the license plate number so it doesn't necessarily mean that the person issuing the ticket actually copied the VIN off the car.  I seem to remember them having pretty detailed info on my car at the time (such as make and color) despite it being a bogus ticket.

SomeBody
Wednesday, April 07, 2004

It's also possible that he did get a ticket in Philly and before he got back to his car a passerby played a practical joke by throwing the ticket away.  He might have never even seen the ticket, despite the fact that it was issued.

Aaron F Stanton
Wednesday, April 07, 2004

In Saudi you can't leave the country until you have paid all traffic tickets. Also women are not allowed to drive.

That second fact still doesn't prevent immigration regularly refusing to let eighty-year old grandmothers out of the country until they have paid the fine (which they can't do in person because women can't driive and so aren't allowed in the traffic department!).

Stephen Jones
Wednesday, April 07, 2004

See

http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/news/columnists/action_line/8297510.htm

As you can see it is not that easy resolving these things. I would send in the $66 with a letter explaining why you do not owe it but only because it is not worth  fighting this for this amount...

Code Monkey
Thursday, April 08, 2004

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