This is the story of Amy Krebs, a resident of Ohio who became an identity theft victim.
What happened with the victim?
In February 2013, Krebs received a phone call on Friday evening from a major credit card company asking her to call them. She received the same call the day before, but she didn’t take any action as she was sure that it was a fraudulent call.But when she cross-checked the phone number, she found that it was a legitimate call and the call was from the fraud department of a major credit card company.
The company informed her that someone tried to obtain a credit card using her name, address and Social Security Number. They asked her if it was obtained by her. She was shocked and she realized she became an identity theft victim. The company said that they will flag it and deactivate that card. But, they still sent the credit card to an address which was not hers. The losses occurred were huge.
What actions did the victim take to report the identity theft?
Krebs decided that she will check all her credit reports from the three credit reporting agencies Equifax, Experian, and Transunion and then follow up with the police. To check the credit reports, you have to answer four security questions which is not much of a task. Still, Krebs couldn’t access two of her credit reports as the thief has modified the reports with her own information.
When she accessed one of her reports, she found that there were several accounts opened using her SSN. She was terrified. This damage was identified through a single report and we all know that the three reports vary a little bit. So, the actual damage that might have occurred was unimaginable. She called each credit bureau to inquire about the accounts opened and she informed them that she has suffered from identity theft.
As Krebs could not get the other two credit reports online so she had to get them by mail. To get them through the mail, she had to attach her Social Security card, birth certificate, and utility bills. She got the reports in 1-2 weeks. After going through the reports, she found that she became a victim six months ago and in these six months, the thief opened up more than 50 accounts! There is no limit to the damages that you might face after suffering from identity theft. The thief could go to any extent which is beyond your imagination. According to the reports, the thief even accessed medical services using her SSN.
Krebs immediately placed a fraud alert on her credit reports and then froze them. When you place an alert, you are informed when anything happens. Next day only, she started getting several calls regarding various activities in her accounts. The thief was still trying to get credit anyhow. What’s worse was that she sounded legitimate to the companies as she had Krebs’ SSN.
How the victim found out about the identity thief?
The thief installed cable in her apartment. Several goods and services were also mailed to her address. This made it easier to track her down. Also, when she signed up for some utility, she used her real name. As her name was linked to Krebs’ SSN, it was detected to be fraudulent.
After the investigation, it was found that the identity thief was using Krebs’ maiden name and a 10-year-old address as her identity. The thief could have acquired that information from anywhere- either Krebs’ doctor, school, employer, etc. She could not say for sure.
The thing that disturbed Krebs the most is that the victim had very little information about her and she was able to get huge credit and several utilities.
What consequences did the identity thief encountered?
The victim did not plead guilty initially. There were several trials. They had to go through the municipal court, grand jury. Eventually, she pleaded guilty. Finally, the police built a case against her. A warrant was released for her arrest and the neighboring community arrested her. Since it was a non-violent crime, she did not serve jail time, instead, she did community service.
How the victim got back her identity?
Getting back your identity is not an easy task. To prove you are the legitimate person to each and every company is a major task. Different companies have different ways in which they confirm your identity. Proving your identity becomes more difficult than a thief acquiring good and services illegally.
One company asked her to contact her various authorities like educational institutions, employers, etc. to prove that she is who she says she is. She even had to go through courts, juries and give testimony.
Krebs had a very bad experience regarding losing her identity. She advises each and every one to never share your SSN. Ask the companies why they really require your SSN. Take all the necessary steps you can to protect your identity from theft.