Identity Theft Victim Unknowingly Charged With Shoplifting
by Heather Graf
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. - If you were charged with a crime, you'd assume, you're the first one to find about it. So imagine the surprise on the face of a Cookeville teenager, when she read about her own arrest in the local newspaper.
Chelsea Renee Scott says she's never been in trouble in her life.
"I was at work when my mom called me," said Chelsea. "And she mentioned that my name was in the newspaper for shoplifting at Kohl's. I was like 'I didn't do it', of course."
The article that appeared in The Herald Citizen said 19-year-old Scott had been caught stealing perfume from the store on West Jackson Street in Cookeville.
Chelsea's mother says she never doubted her daughter was innocent, she just wanted to work quickly to clear her daughter's name.
"Chelsea is a sweet girl, she would never ever do anything like that," said her mother, Renee Scott. "So I called the newspaper and asked them where they'd gotten the story, and they told me they had a police report, and they had Chelsea's name, date of birth, they had our address, all of our information."
Renee's next stop was the Cookeville Police Department, to speak to the officer who made the arrest.
"He was very apologetic. As soon as he saw Chelsea, he knew the girl they caught shoplifting wasn't her," she said.
It turns out, Chelsea lost her driver's license a few weeks ago. It's believed the young woman arrested at Kohl's must've used the license to get herself off the hook.
"It's scary it's that easy to steal someone's identity," said Chelsea. "She had all of my information. It was that easy for her to use my information to get away with this."
In most cases, a person accused of shoplifting is issued a citation and given a court date, instead of being booked into jail. For that reason, the woman posing as Chelsea is still on the run.
Police say they've made it a priority to find her and arrest her.
The Herald-Citizen, meanwhile, did run a follow-up article, that made it clear Chelsea Renee Scott is not at all a criminal, but a victim of identity theft.
"You hear about this happening, but when it actually happens to you, it's a lot different," said Chelsea's mother. "I just hope they catch her."
Chelsea's mother says they've also been checking her credit report regularly for any more fraudulent activity, and will continue to do so, until an arrest is made.