Indianapolis man charged with stealing child's identity
The man at the center of an Eyewitness News investigation is now behind bars. Marcos Lopez is charged with identity theft for allegedly stealing a baby's Social Security number and using it for more than a decade.
An Indianapolis teenager says, "I can finally feel like myself," after police arrested a man accused of stealing his identity more than a decade ago.
Detectives from IMPD and the U.S. Secret Service arrested Marcos Lopez, 44, in Broad Ripple following year-long investigation by Eyewitness News.
The investigation exposed how Lopez allegedly stole the Social Security number of Adam Brackin just days after he was born, and used the boy's personal information for more than a decade to get jobs, rent homes and apartments and run up thousands of dollars in unpaid bills.
13 Investigates has been trying to track down Lopez for months, but his address and employment information changed frequently and quickly, making it difficult to find him.
That changed last week, when Eyewitness News and IMPD received a tip that Lopez was working at Chumley's Bar and Grill in Broad Ripple – a job he got by fraudulently using Brackin's stolen Social Security number, according to detectives.
A half dozen plain-clothed officers in unmarked vehicles arrived at Chumley's late Thursday afternoon to discuss their plan. They entered the back door of the restaurant and, a few minute later, led Lopez out in handcuffs.
As detectives served a warrant to inspect his north side apartment and his car parked behind the restaurant, Lopez was driven downtown in the backseat of a police car for questioning.
IMPD Detective Sgt. Eric Eads told WTHR Lopez agreed to provide a videotaped statement, and during that statement the defendant admitted he had been using fraudulent identification for more than a decade.
"He told me he's from Mexico and moved to the United States in 1997," Eads said. "He said he had bought [Adam's] Social Security card and permanent resident ID card in Chicago in 1997, and has been using it ever since. "I asked him 'Did you know this was illegal? You shouldn't have done this?' He said 'Hey, I had to work. I had to use the Social Security number to work. I didn't have a choice. I had to make money.'"
According to IMPD, Lopez recently used a fake Social Security card with Brackin's real Social Security number to get jobs at Chumley's, Granite City Food & Brewery and Culver's restaurants on the northeast side.
Detectives also discovered Lopez used Adam's Social Security number to get more than a dozen IDs from the Indiana State Bureau of Motor Vehicles.
Eads said the undocumented worker has used six different names, has five different Social Security numbers and has been arrested on four separate occasions for violations such as public intoxication, drunken driving and resisting law enforcement.
But none of the prior arrests appears to be as serious as this one.
"At this point, he's been charged with ten felonies," Eads explained. "There's four counts of C Felony forgery, four counts of identity theft and two counts of perjury."
Lopez is currently in the Marion County Jail awaiting his preliminary hearing, which is scheduled for Monday. He declined an interview request by WTHR.
"Never thought this day would arrive"
For the first time, Adam Brackin is now seeing the face of the man accused of stealing his identity.
WTHR showed Adam video of the arrest about an hour after it happened, and the 15-year-old student at Covenant Christian High School watched the video with a big smile.
"I can finally feel like myself. I can finally feel like I'm Adam again," he said. "I was worried how this would affect my future."
His mother is relieved.
"It's been a total worry on me day after day after day. He's 15 now. That's just a few short years before he turns 18 and I want my son to have the same opportunities as I had and everybody else has – not for somebody to ruin it for him," said Angie Holtgrave. "I really never thought this day would arrive."
IMPD has offered to assist Adam as he applies for a new Social Security number, a process that should help the teenager clean up a very poor credit history left in the wake of his stolen Social Security number.
Law enforcement says child identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the nation. An estimated 140,000 identity frauds are committed against minors each year, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
Because most people don't begin monitoring their credit until they are adults, a child's stolen social security number may not be detected for years – even decades – causing tremendous damage by the time it is caught.
How to protect your kids
That's why you should take action now.
The Federal Trade Commission recommends you contact a credit bureau to see if your child has a credit file – a primary warning sign of child identity theft.
"For a child, there should be no credit file because, as a minor, you can't apply for credit," explained Steve Katz, senior director of consumer affairs at TransUnion credit bureau. "So if these [credit] accounts exist, they've most likely been established by a third party whose using that child's information, and they shouldn't be."
The nation's three major credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian. and TransUnion – all offer what's called a "minor credit file check" for you to investigate the status of your child's credit. The credit bureaus will conduct a file check for free. (Details and instructions below.)
"It's a very easy process. You simply go to our website … there's a secure form you can fill out and send to us. We'll respond to you very quickly if we find a credit file in your child's name and we'll provide you with the next steps," Katz told WTHR earlier this year. "We have the ability to go in there and clean up that file so, in the future, any negative items will not impact the child."
TransUnion says its minor credit file checks reveal credit files on approximately 4% of children. With approximately 75 million children (ages 0-17) in the United States, that percentage represents approximately 1.5 million kids who may have improper credit activity – and possible identity theft – linked to their Social Security numbers. The FTC says it is important to identify potential problems early.
"Before a child reaches the age of 16, parents definitely should see if there is a credit file on their children," said FTC identity protection specialist Steve Toporoff. "That will give some time to remedy problems and to clean up the child's credit file so, by the time they reach 18, they will have a clean credit history going forward."
Resources to check your child's credit file:
TransUnion online Child Identity Theft Inquiry Form (This allows you to apply online)
Experian info/instructions for Minor Child Credit Check (You must print a form and send it)