The Cost of Sharing a Name and a Birthday With a Stranger

You have to pay their traffic tickets, for starters. (No, you can’t just say “that’s not me.”)

Photo credit: David Lofink, CC BY 2.0.

Here’s today’s must-read longread:

For 18 years, I thought she was stealing my identity. Until I found her

Lisa Davis keeps getting tickets and court summons for a person who shares both her full name and birthdate—but isn’t her.

At the DMV the next week, I was told that I’d gotten a ticket for driving down 138th Street in the Bronx with a busted headlight. “That can’t be,” I said. “I’ve never even driven down that street.”

They showed me a copy of the ticket. It was made out to Lisa Selin Davis. But the address wasn’t mine. The car wasn’t mine. And the neat, bubbly signature on the bottom — Lisa Davis, in cursive — wasn’t my all-caps scrawl. It must be identity theft, I thought.

I had to plead guilty and pay the fine to restore my license, then try to repeal the guilty plea at traffic court. I also filled out a “Report of Unauthorized Use of License/Registration” form, to launch an investigation.

Davis finds herself spending hours in courtrooms and DMV lines, paying fines towards minor offenses committed by the other Lisa Davis, who seems to get pulled over by cops constantly. She also ends up pleading guilty to multiple offenses she did not commit, because there is no other real option.

And yes—one Lisa Davis is white and the other Lisa Davis is black. But that’s only part of the story. The other part is how difficult is is for Davis to defend herself (even with a lawyer) in a system that assumes she is automatically guilty.

And it all costs money.

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