(Ran 3B State)
With Florida's unemployment rate at its highest level during the current recession, it can be a desperate time for jobless people.
But con artists adept at turning this desperation to their advantage can cause even more trouble for the unemployed.
Clearwater police have uncovered a scheme involving a man who posed as an employer looking for help as a means to get personal information. The man used the information to apply illegally for credit, get a driver's license and obtain a license tag in another person's name.
"The way the job market is, everyone is willing to go the extra mile to get a job," Clearwater Detective Peter Kanaris said. "But you don't give out personal information to anyone over the telephone regarding a job. You go meet with the person."
Kanaris arrested Terrence L. Zimmerman, 49, on Oct. 1 in connection with an investigation of the scam. Zimmerman, of 1285 S Betty Lane in Clearwater, was charged with uttering a forged document. He was released on his own recognizance from the Pinellas County Jail.
Zimmerman is accused of using information obtained from a 46-year-old Clearwater man to get fictitious documents. The man, whose name is being withheld, is a disabled former Largo firefighter.
He answered a classified ad in the St. Petersburg Times in April to check on a possible part-time job as a truck driver. Over the telephone, he gave the man posing as a potential employer his driver's license number and other information, because he was told he had to be bonded for insurance purposes for the job.
He did not hear again about the job. But two weeks ago, an analyst for a credit card clearing house contacted him about a possible fraudulent application for a card in his name.
Kanaris and U.S. postal inspectors began an investigation. They determined that a man had used the information provided over the telephone to virtually assume the job applicant's identity.
"He got a duplicate driver's license in his name, car insurance in his name and applied for credit in his name," the detective said. "It was a slick scam."
The investigation showed that an Alaska license tag was issued to the victim, with an address at a mail drop box in Alaska registered to him.
"I didn't think anything about it when I gave out the information," the victim said. "But it's not good to give it out on the phone, or even in person sometimes."