Identity Theft: A Real-Life Story

Becky Harmon of Marietta, GA knew more than the average person about identity theft: ways it can occur and what security measures to take to help prevent it, since she had majored in Criminology at Florida State University.

But that still didn’t prepare her for the day when she became an ID theft victim.

Here’s Becky’s story:

WHN: You first learned your identity had been stolen in 2006 but it actually took place a year earlier, correct?

Becky: Yes. In July 2005, I had closed on a home in Marietta, Ga. About nine months later, I received a phone call asking me if I would like to prevent my home from going into foreclosure. That’s when I learned that, one month after I bought my home, someone had begun to buy homes, using my personal information they had stolen. I checked my credit and, much to my horror, discovered two homes on my credit reports that were not mine.

WHN: What did you do next?

Becky: I filed reports with the police and the FBI, who also gave me a card in case I was pulled over by local police and misidentified as the woman who stole my I.D. Then I filed reports with the credit agencies, who put a seven-year extended fraud alert on my file.

Then the calls started coming in: credit card companies, grocery stores and gas companies asking if I had taken out cards with them—which I had not! Every time I would relax, I would discover another theft that had been attempted. My nerves were shot. Eventually I discovered that they had taken out 800,000 worth of home loans in my name.

WHN: It must have been very hard to concentrate on your work.

Becky: Yes. At the time I was a account associate with a medical device company and had to be totally on top of my game as I had to present to doctors and surgeons. With everything going on and the endless reports and calls concerning my credit and accounts I had to file, I lost over a month of focus with my job. The paperwork was incredibly time-consuming: everything had to be notarized in triplicate and I had to submit my passport and driver’s license information to every credit agency. I ended up resigning from my job and as a prayer leader in my church because I was emotionally exhausted.

WHN: This happened several years ago but I understand you are still experiencing some “ID theft aftershocks.”

Becky: Yes, I just checked my credit report and there are still ID theft related hits still cropping up. As recently as three months ago I was denied credit because the ID theft had brought down my credit score. I’ve hired legal help to assist us in contacting the credit agencies as I am tired of dealing with it. Fortunately I do not rely on credit or I would be in trouble.

WHN: What are three things you’d like to recommend?

Becky: Enroll in an identity theft prevention service like LifeLock before ID theft happens to you. If you are as busy as I was when my ID theft happened, you can plan on your life being on hold for a while if you have to solve it all yourself. Also, check your credit reports every six months or so and immediately disputing anything that’s wrong. Lastly, consider not carrying cards in your wallet —if it gets stolen, you won’t have to panic! I don’t carry anything in my wallet except for my insurance card, debit card and license.

WHN: What was the most surprising thing you learned?

Becky: How little the FBI or police can do to apprehend these people. It is the number one growing crime and law enforcement is simply overwhelmed trying to keep up. It is up to you to take control.

WHN: What helped you the most?

Becky: Partnering with people who are in business to protect identity and then just diligently checking the reports to make sure and catch any false information. It helped me mentally to know there was someone “live” I could talk to at LifeLock if I had any questions.

But the good news is that this experience made me really reexamine my life. I decided I was tired of feeling victimized. I started running, and finished a marathon within a year of my ID theft. I started a business educating people on ID theft and also at the same time decided to become a LifeCoach, specializing in helping people discover and walk in their true identity.

I also am in the midst of launching a non-profit ministry that specializes in life coaching prayer leaders and helping them enjoy life in a healthy and balanced way. I look back on this experience and have gained great satisfaction in helping people discover their true passion, live life as an “overcomer” and eradicate victimization out of their lives. You might say that the identity theft actually helped me find myself!

Last Updated: 5/2009