The Press Newspaper

Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

The Press Newspaper

The Press Newspaper

Oregon Mayor Marge Brown has become a victim of identity theft, but it’s not her money the thief stole. It’s her reputation.

Now, she wants it back. The mayor last week filed a police report against an unknown person alleging identity fraud, a fifth degree felony.

Mayor Brown filed the report after viewing the website www.margebrown.com. The site shows her photo, name and title at the top of the page making the site appear to be hers. Under it, a scrolling message reads: “Remember taxes are like drugs. Just say no. No to COSI. No to all property taxes.”
The message continues: “Vote no on all tax levy’s(sic)! COSI, Please. Your(sic) a private business. You have no right to even ask for a tax to help your business. And know this. That even a tax renewal Will Increase your property Taxes. That’s because when the tax went into effect it was charged at the value your home was years ago. A Tax Renewal, renews at your Current Property Value. And we all know that’s much higher!

“Vote no on ALL tax Levy’s(sic). VOTE NO On the Oregon School Levy. It’s just not needed. Thank You.”

Nothing on this site suggests satire. And, if you didn’t know better, you’d have no reason to believe this is not Marge Brown’s personal website. And, if you didn’t know Marge Brown, you’d think she was an anti-tax crusading mayor elected to office by residents of a city that back her radical position.

But, I know Marge Brown. She was an elementary school teacher for 39 years. She has served Oregon as a councilman for eight years and mayor for seven. She has traditionally supported school levies and she spells better than this site administrator.

She told me last week how the site damages her standing in the community. “Tuesday, I met with the school system and they want my support for the levy that’s coming. And they want the city’s support. But, when someone gets on there they’ll say, `What is she doing, talking out of both sides of her mouth?’ That’s not me. I tell it like it is.”

I first went to the site after seeing a post on SwampBubbles.com, an interactive site for news and political discussion for Northwest Ohio. The post on September 3 from ARealAmerican states that websites for Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner and Marge Brown have been updated and gave addresses to both sites. Seventeen SwampBubbles users read the post.

The difference between the two sites should give concern to all of us. While the Finkbeiner site, www.cartyfinkbeiner.com, is headlined Carty Finkbeiner Mayor of Toledo, Ohio, there’s no doubt that this is not Carty’s site. The author uses vulgar language and disparages “King Carty” about his stance on red light cameras. It’s clear this crude attempt at satire is authored by someone who is angry with the Toledo Mayor, a public figure. As such, it is protected free speech. The Brown site, however, does not clearly leave the reader with the impression it is satire, which is a distinct change from the original Brown site that featured opinions about controversies surrounding fired police chief Tom Gulch and the mayor’s son, a police officer.

This stealing of a name to damage someone’s reputation is a new wrinkle in identity theft, one of our country’s fastest rising crimes. In 2007, an estimated 8.4 million were victims of identity theft for financial fraud, according to a survey conducted by Javelin Strategy and Research. And, evidently the law hasn’t caught up to a practice that could damage all of us.

So, what does it take to steal your identity and use it as a domain name for a porn site?

“You got a credit card, you can buy a name,” said Steve Timofeev, owner of WebArt, a website developer in Toledo.

Timofeev says anyone can buy your name and hold it hostage. When you want to create your own site using your name, you have to buy the rights to use it. So, it seems Mayor Brown is out of luck as far as www.margebrown.com. However, Timofeev says she may have other recourse. “When he (the owner of the site) is portraying himself as Marge Brown, there’s a lot of laws that protect Marge, not just because she’s the mayor but as her person.”

The internet is a wonderful tool for research and communication and for bringing knowledge and disparate views to your fingertips. But, at times, it can be like the wild west--lawless. Marge Brown hopes to change that by redefining what it means to steal someone’s identity. She vows to pursue the matter without using taxpayer money.

“This sort of thing has gotten over the top. This internet stuff is crazy,” she says.
    
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Bill Cosby

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