If you don’t think identity theft can cost you, just ask Lucky Whitehead. The FORMER Dallas Cowboys player lost his job recently because someone else knew his Social Security number.
Whitehead was fingered for a shoplifting crime recently in Prince George’s County, Virginia, not far from Washington D.C. Police said he took items from a Wawa convenience store without paying.
They had the wrong guy.
The actual alleged criminal, now identified as Deyvon Newman, didn’t have ID when police stopped him June 22. He told cops his name was Rodney Darnell Whitehead, and he provided Whitehead’s date of birth and Social Security. According to ESPN, cops said they compared a picture on file with the motor vehicle department with the man before them and “acted in good faith that, at the time, the man in custody was the same man matching the information provided.”
Whitehead denied he was involved. He showed evidence that he was in Dallas at the time of the crime, but it was too late. By the time police confirmed the ID theft story, his employer, the Dallas Cowboys, had cut him.
Whitehead was scheduled to earn $600,000. Instead, over an under-$200 shoplifting arrest caused by impersonation, he lost his job. As a 25-year-old wide receiver and kick returner yet to make his mark, Whitehead’s career in the league could have been over.
Lucky for Whitehead, his story has a seemingly happy ending — the New York Jets claimed him on waivers, and if he makes the team out of camp, he’ll be making the same money he would have with the Cowboys (he will, however, have to play for the Jets).
You might not be as lucky. Criminal identity theft remains a serious problem, one that can turn a life upside down within minutes. There’s still a lot of unknowns about Whitehead’s case. How did the alleged identity thief get Whitehead’s personal details? Famous people are a frequent target for casual data theft, but there other clues. Whitehead says his dog was kidnapped from his home only weeks before the incident; it’s easy imagine that burglar stole personal information, too.
Whitehead also failed to appear in court a few weeks after the initial arrest. What happened to the court notices sent to his home? Were they misplaced? Did Whitehead ignore them, mistaking them for junk mail?
It’s basically impossible to prevent identity theft in all its forms. The crucial thing is to recognize the signs and recover from it as quickly as possible. Most of all: Never ignore suspicious or surprising mail sent to your house. It can provide clues that something is happening to your digital identity.