Burbank resident Jennifer Smith works three jobs and, for the most part, tried to pinch pennies as much as she could. And for that, her credit was nearly flawless.
At least that was the case until several weeks ago, when an alleged thief opened numerous credit card accounts in Smith’s name and went on a lavish shopping spree, spending more than $14,000 in a matter of days, bouncing from store to store in Glendale and Burbank.
While the woman racked up the charges, Smith could be facing crumbling credit.
“My pay-offs are far and few between,” Smith said.
The alleged thief managed to buy a 50-inch Samsung TV, iPads, electronics, designer handbags, colognes, perfumes, $800 in gift cards, MAC cosmetics and $2,000 at Toys R Us.
“I don’t even know how to spend $100 at Toys R Us,” she said.
Under federal law, consumers face a maximum of $50 in liability for unauthorized charges — and most merchants waive even that. However, the process for disputing charges can be tedious and long.
Police released photographs this week of a woman who they believe stole Smith’s identity.
But the police announcement hasn’t generated any significant leads, according to Glendale police spokeswoman Tahnee Lightfoot.
Still, that hasn’t stopped Smith as well as her friends and family from looking for the woman.
It all started when Smith, 37, received a phone call on Feb. 12 from Target notifying her that account information may have been breached.
She began digging into her account records and emails, but it wasn’t easy.
Smith works long hours as an ob-gyn technician and helps deliver babies at a Glendora hospital.
On top of her duties in Glendora, she balances two other jobs at Glendale hospitals.
But after the theft, she devoted her days off to filing documents, obtaining surveillance footage and managing receipts in an attempt to repair her credit and find the woman.
While investigating her credit, she nearly had a run-in with the alleged thief at JCPenney.
Smith was reporting the theft at the store when an employee suddenly alerted her that the woman was in the store at the same time using the gift cards she had purchased. But she said the employee told her to report the incident to the Police Department.
“You have to jump through hoops to protect yourself,” she said.
Consumers lost more than $1.6 billion to fraud last year with identity theft being the most common complaint, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
Smith knew that one day she could be a victim of identity theft, but she said she didn’t think it would be to this extent.
She has now taken the necessary steps to protect herself, receiving fraud-alert warnings for any suspicious activity on her credit.
Smith urged the public to call police if they see the woman.
“It’s just a matter of time [until] she does this to somebody else,” Smith said.
Police described the woman as 5 feet 4 inches tall and 26 to 33 years old with a medium to heavy build. She has long black hair and wears glasses.
She drove a possibly dark gray, mid-sized 2000 Honda Accord EX with a spoiler, police said.
Anyone with information about the woman’s whereabouts is asked to call Financial Crimes Det. Peter Robinson at (818) 548-3101.