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Los Fresnos Man Claims Falling Victim to Identity Theft, Fears Losing Gov’t Help

3 years 3 weeks 6 days ago Thursday, September 28 2017 Sep 28, 2017 September 28, 2017 5:59 PM September 28, 2017 in News

LOS FRESNOS – A Los Fresnos man is worried he could lose his government benefits.

He claims his identity was stolen and now he's left trying to prove his identity.

A bad accident while working in the oil rigs years ago left Robert Celaya with severe injuries to his back and hands. He said he depends on his disability check and food stamps to get by.

"I'm right here, disabled 100 percent," Celaya said. "I can move them (my hands), but with a lot of pain. I can't stand for an 8-hour period because of my back problems, and arthritis is created all on my right side."

Letty Puga, director at the Los Fresnos Housing Authority, told CHANNEL 5 NEWS they received a notification from the Social Security office alerting them that Celaya's Social Security number showed he was employed with a company in Midland, Texas.

Celaya has been a housing resident for years, Puga said. However, they still had to ask him to provide documentation to prove he still qualified for housing assistance.

Celaya said he’s now scared to lose his benefits.

"I'm surviving with the benefits that I have," he said. "If someone comes in and messes it up, I'm doomed. I have nowhere to go, I'll be homeless."

Celaya believes this identity theft stems from a wallet he lost nine years ago. He said it's never been an issue until now.

Dolores Salinas, president of the Better Business Bureau in Weslaco, said identity theft doesn't have a time limit.

"There's no way of you knowing when, whoever got a hold of your information, is going to use it," Salinas said. "If he would've taken the proper steps nine years ago, and reported everything in his wallet as lost and done an identity theft kit at that time, then it's possible this could've been averted."

The burden falls on Celaya now, Salinas said, to prove he still needs government help and not making money in Midland.

"You're superseding the amount of money that you can have in income, coming into your household," she said.

Salinas said identity theft cases can take years to clear-up. It can be done quickly, but you will need proper reporting and documentation.

Celaya said it's taking a toll on him. He's filed a police report with the Los Fresnos Police Department.

Officials at the housing authority said as soon as he provides them with that report, they'll be able to continue helping him.

They added as long as someone keeps using his Social Security number, he will have to go through the process every year.

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