ID thieves shop while victim was home sick

HOUSTON Diane Jefferson manages her family's finances and never had any problems. So you can imagine, the shock on her face when she started receiving letters from collection agencies, stating she owed almost $2,000. As it turns, out her identity had been stolen.

While Jefferson was home sick in bed on Christmas Eve investigators say three girls, who were caught by surveillance cameras, went on a shopping spree using her money, buying whatever they wanted. Jefferson said, "They just kept going until they ran it dry."

About $1,700 was gone just like that. What's more, they continued writing counterfeit checks in Jefferson's name using the bank's routing number and her driver's license number even though her checking account was empty. It wasn't until she went online that she found her account had been frozen. Jefferson was horrified.

She asked, "How could somebody be that evil? How could somebody be that evil! I just couldn't believe that somebody would do that."

As debt collectors began hounding her, Jefferson contacted the Harris County Sheriff's office financial crimes unit, who began investigating.

"I'm at a standstill," said Sgt. Leona Peterson. "I have video but I don't have anything to connect these people with the video."

Authorities want viewers to take a close look at the surveillance video. It shows three women the day after Christmas at a sporting goods store.

Jefferson said, "They were laughing, you know, like this is funny. Like they don't even care."

A girl's day out shopping on Jefferson's dime and she is left to clean up severely damaged credit history -- a financial mess that took her three months to straighten out.

"I'm still a victim now," she said. "I guess until I get them caught, that's what I feel about it."

As a result of her identity being stolen, Jefferson can't open any new accounts for the next seven years. Investigators believe her personal information was essentially sold to the highest bidder after used a check to pay for something. A good rule of thumb is to cut back on using your debit card and writing checks. Use cash whenever possible.

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