CARSON CITY-- On paper, 18-year-old Carlos Hernandez is a precocious criminal who, at the age of 9, began racking up black marks that included credit card fraud.
Somewhere along the way, his records show, he was convicted of drunken driving.
In reality, none of that is true, Las Vegas police and Hernandez told members of the Assembly Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.
When the Las Vegas resident was just a child, someone stole his Social Security number and his name, something Hernandez didn't discover until April when his application for credit to buy a car was rejected. He later was barred from joining the Navy and deemed ineligible to put a down payment on a home because of his false criminal and credit histories.
"They used my name to buy a house, to buy two cars," Hernandez testified about the theft of his identity. "A lot of their stuff was repossessed. This went on for years."
Hernandez and Sgt. Anthony Aguillard asked committee members to approve Assembly Bill 83, proposed by Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas. It would change the statute of limitations on crimes such as identify theft, which now is three years.
The current limit means victims of identify theft could discover at age 18 that someone had blackened their credit when they were children, Oceguera said, but no charges could be brought against the perpetrators. His bill would give law enforcement four years from the time the identity theft is discovered to bring charges against the suspects.
When reached at home, Hernandez said he discovered that his identity probably was stolen when he was 6 or 7.
Aguillard said the bill would give authorities sufficient time to find and charge identity thieves.
Had the proposed law been in place, Hernandez said, police could have investigated. Those convicted of using another person's identity in Nevada can be punished with up to 20 years in prison and a $100,000 fine.
No action was taken on the bill, although legislators expressed support. Judiciary Chairman William Horne, D-Las Vegas, even contacted his ex-wife during the hearing to have her run credit reports for their children, ages 5 and 7.
Aguillard warned that children more and more often are becoming the victims of identity theft. All parents should get Social Security cards for their children for income tax purposes. However, people often don't learn of identity theft until they turn 18 and apply for credit, he said.
"You can buy Social Security numbers at swap meets," Aguillard said. "Dumpster divers find numbers. They even rob them out of peoples' mailboxes."
Aguillard said thieves can find "dormant" Social Security numbers on the Internet.
In response to questions from legislators, Aguillard said parents should get an identity theft protection plan through a bank. He also advised parents to not automatically give out a child's Social Security number to clubs or sports organizations.
"Be mindful of passing personal information out," he said. "Ask why they need it."
What happened to Hernandez happens all too often in Las Vegas, Aguillard said.
One woman, who could not attend the hearing, spent a day and a half in a Clark County jail for failing to show up for a court hearing. A friend of the woman's roommate apparently had found her credit card number and had stolen her identity. It was that person who had missed the court date.
Terry Johnson, director of the state Department of Business and Industry, said Nevada ranks fifth among the states in the rate of identity theft.
Oceguera said he discovered children often were being targeted by identify thieves from a constituent who called and asked for help.
When he contacted Las Vegas police, Oceguera said he learned the constituent was right and that police were eager to change the statute of limitations to help these victims.
Hernandez, who works at a Burger King, said he has fixed most of his problems, but some creditors are still demanding more information.
Victims of identify theft must file a report with their local police. They then can go to an attorney general's office and secure photo identification cards that they can use with creditors and other agencies as they try to clear or repair their histories.
Contact reporter Ed Vogel at evogel@review journal.com or 775-687-3901.