It Felt Like Identity Theft, but Turned Out to Be Far From It

For years Lisa Davis was sure she was the victim of identity theft
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 8, 2017 1:18 PM CDT
Same Names, Birthdays Lead to Identity Mixup
"When cops run a license, they don’t check the person's address, signature, or social security numbers."   (Getty Images/inte2000)

Lisa Selin Davis has spent nearly 20 years paying someone else's fines—issued to a New Yorker with the same name and birthday who was being cited for all sorts of things she herself never had done, small infractions like using her phone behind the wheel and walking in a Brooklyn park after 10pm. The apparent identity-theft headache started in 1998, when a Dollar Rent-a-Car agent in Florida told Davis she couldn't rent her a car: The system showed Davis' license was suspended. Except she didn't own a car, she writes for the Guardian, and the copy of the ticket she obtained from the DMW faulted her for driving down a Bronx street she had never been on. Her only recourse was to plead guilty and pay the fine. And it happened again and again. "Who was this woman who had slipped on the sheath of my identity, who had assumed my birthday," she wondered.

After 15 years of fighting her case of identity theft, the DMV discovered the truth: There was another Lisa S. Davis, born on the same day, living in New York City. But that didn't make the trouble go away: Davis failed a background check for a new job in 2015 over the aforementioned park violation, and a legal mess followed—along with a realization. As a white woman living in Park Slope, "I have never heard of anyone getting tickets in my neighborhood for any of the infractions" that befall her counterpart. And so she set off to find Lisa Davis, to see if her theory held up: "that the real 'crime' ... was being non-white." She went to Brownsville and knocked on Lisa Davis' door. And "the strangest thing of all started to happen: Lisa S. Davis and I became friends." Read her full piece in the Guardian, which has a photo of the two Lisa Davises. (More mistaken identity stories.)

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