What I've Learned About Losing My Identity

What I’ve Learned About Losing My Identity

As Will Smith once rapped, this is a story about how my life got turned upside down…not once, not twice, but three times.

Your identity, it’s something that we take for granted in today’s day and age. We all have a name and a number attached to us, that signifies who we are but we often don’t think about how important these items really are. We don’t think much about these items, except for when they are taken away from us or used against us.

Well as a victim of identity theft not once, not twice, but now three times I can say that these things are important things that we need to take more seriously. Our name and our social security number creates our identity, which many people can actually use against us.

My Identity Loss Story

So I’ve had my identity stolen three times in 11 years…

The first time I had my identity stolen was in 2008. I lived in Clayton, North Carolina at the time and checked the mail one day only to find family cell phone plans created in my name for ATT, Sprint, and Verizon Wireless. Though I didn’t realize that this was going to be the first of many attempts to use my identity, this attempt was quickly remedied with a few phone calls to each cellular network. 

The second time  I had my identity stolen was in 2014 when I got a letter in the mail from a BMW dealer in Houston Texas. BMW’s fraud department had apparently found someone who had fraudulently bought a vehicle using my name and had quickly moved to take care of the issue.

The third time was in June(yes June 2019) was when I found out someone had created another(sigh) Verizon Wireless cell phone plan in my name as well as opened a Target gift card. This issue sadly took a few months to resolve.

In all three cases, I still don’t know who stole my identity. In a world in which we hear about data being leaked almost every day I can only imagine that my information was stolen and/or leaked online from one of the many data hacks that’s happened in recent years.

As a digital marketer, the idea that my data is so easily available is both scary and ultimately concerning. If it’s been leaked and stolen three times already, who is it to say that it won’t be stolen a fourth time.

What You Can do to Prevent Identity Loss

Now I’m not writing you this because I want you to feel sorry for me. Sadly, this stuff happens everyday and I’m sure for some of you it’s already happened regardless if you’ve been monitoring your credit or not. But I’m writing to you today, because I am hoping that if you are going through something like this, I can offer you a little bit of wisdom.

In the case that you fear you have had your identity stolen or you are going through Fraud right now, I encourage you to do the following.

  1. Regularly check your mail. So many of us only check our mail weekly or monthly but in all the above cases I first received word that my identity was being used, when I received paper bills or notices in he mail.
  2. Regularly check your credit. Even if it’s only once a year, keeping an eye on your credit is something that I encourage everyone to do as the credit unions not only give you your credit score but will tell you when your credit was last ran.
  3. File a police report (but know it won’t do you any good). Most organizations will ask that file a police report before they can do anything. This is great and I did both in 2008 and back in July(this year), however, it’s important to note that the police will do little to nothing. Sadly cyber-security fraud is on the bottom of their list, especially when you don’t have any suspects.
  4. Think about freezing your credit and contacting your bank. These are two items that people hate to do and some might not be able to do given the circumstances, but if you have been the victim of major fraud it’s important that you take precautions that people don’t continue to abuse it. (For those unaware, the major credit unions are: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax.)
  5. Report Your theft to the FTC. The FTC has created a great website in the Identitytheft.gov, that helps you document this entire process. It also gives you access to creating documents and educating you on your rights if need be.
  6. Educate Yourself on Cyber Protection. We live in a world where just about anything can get hacked, so I encourage you to read and educate yourself about things like two-factor authentication and other resources that are available to help you.

Also above all else don’t forget too…be patient and do not try to play detective and put yourself in harm’s way. Identity fraud is tough and is an ongoing issue in today’s world, but it is something that can be overcome with patience and perseverance.