Is your identity safe? Stealing IDs spreads to Supreme Court and celebrities

Published: Monday, April 8 2013 3:25 p.m. MDT

U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts speaks at BYU in this 2007 file photo. Roberts recently became the victim of identity theft, but he isn't the first high-profile Washington figure to encounter such thefts.

Stuart Johnson, Deseret News

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The thief probably thought the common-sounding name "John Roberts" was ordinary enough that it would be a safe identity to steal. But, as Al Kamen in the Washington Post recently reported, that wasn't just any John Roberts, it was Chief Justice John Roberts.

"Roberts usually uses a credit card to buy his morning coffee at his local Starbucks in suburban Maryland," Kamen wrote.

But instead, Roberts had to pay cash. "Seems someone had gotten his credit-card numbers, he told the cashier, and he was obliged to cancel the card," Kamen wrote.

Apparently, Chief Justice Roberts is not used to using cash and felt the need to apologize when he used it.

Nick Wing at the Huffington Post said, "Roberts was overheard by The Huffington Post making a similar claim at a D.C. barber shop … noting that the theft had apparently originated from a suspect in Kentucky."

Matt Brownell at DailyFinance wrote that the Associated Press confirmed the theft.

"Supreme Court Justices: They're just like us!" Brownell wrote. "Roberts isn't the first high-profile Washington figure to become the victim of identity theft lately — earlier this month, First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and the director of the FBI all had their credit reports stolen and posted to a Russian website. Celebrities including Beyonce Knowles were also affected."

Celebrities have been victims in the past as well.

Maryam K. Ansari at Find Law said many stars have had their identity stolen.

Willard C. Smith, the actor Will Smith, was a victim. So also was Eldrick T. Woods, a golfer known as Tiger.

The New York Post deemed Justice Roberts' criminal the "Supreme ID thief."

But according to celeblegalissues.com, that title should go to Abraham Abdallah, who stole the identities of "Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg, Warren Buffet, Ted Turner, Martha Stewart and nearly 200 others. For about six months, Mr. Abdallah removed millions of dollars from celebrities' bank and brokerage accounts. He was arrested after he attempted to transfer $10 million from the Merrill Lynch account of Thomas Siebel."

Brownell at DailyFinance says to be aware to avoid the consequences of identity theft. "Federal law caps losses due to credit card fraud at $50, and most credit cards go a step further and offer zero liability on fraudulent purchases. That's contingent on you spotting the fraudulent charge in a timely manner and alerting the bank, so we might recommend setting up alerts on your credit card to let you know about possible fraudulent transactions; at the very least, you should carefully read your statement every month."

EMAIL: mdegroote@deseretnews.com, Twitter: @degroote, Facebook: facebook.com/madegroote

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