A Marion County woman got the shock of her life in February 2016 when she received a W-2 form that showed earnings of $15,000, on which she reportedly owed taxes.
“I wish that was my money that I had earned,” she thought.
Bit it wasn’t. She had been getting other things like that in the past four years, like erroneous tax bills and other fraudulent statements.
She knew something was wrong but didn’t know what it was. She learned that she was the victim of identity theft.
She showed this latest form to her tax accountant, who said, “This is not yours!”
The woman reported the fraud to the sheriff’s department, which turned it back to the company that issued it.
“I felt, what’s next!” she said. “When I got cancer in 2010, it was the most frightening time in my life, but I survived.”
She had not had a credit card for quite some time. After her husband’s death in 2004, she had cut up all of her cards.
Now almost 70 years old, she is on Social Security. She doesn’t work, has no computer, and lives in a house and a car that are in her daughter’s name. She has no idea how anyone could have obtained her Social Security number.
“People took advantage of me,” she said. “When your husband dies, you are vulnerable.”
She said the first hint that something wasn’t right was when she applied for insurance under the Affordable Health Care Act at the Department for Children and Families in Newton.
“I had Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance, but I needed help,” she said. “I was broke.”
She provided a lot of personal information. After her application was reviewed, they told her that she was too rich and that she was hiding income and lying to them, she said.
“They knew more about me than I knew about myself,” she said.
She walked away.
Now she knows why they said what they did. They had checked her credit report.
She had received notices in the mail about how to obtain a free credit report but had always ignored them, thinking she didn’t need one.
“I’ve always worked hard and kept up my responsibilities,” she said.
After reporting the fraudulent W-2, she got a copy of her credit report and found that it showed credit card accounts in Georgia, Alabama, Utah, Pennsylvania, and California. Nobody had told her about it. Whoever stole her identity had used her information to open accounts at various business establishments.
Sheriff Robert Craft said after he takes a report of a fraudulent credit card charge, his office contacts the company that sent the bill.
“Usually it’s someone not in the county,” Craft said. “The credit card company accepts the report and usually won’t require payment. So, the store becomes the victim, and the reporting person has no monetary loss.”
He said sometimes someone overseas has obtained and used the information. In that case, banks take the loss.
Craft recommended that people obtain a credit report twice a year.
“You may not know if your information has been used to open an account somewhere,” he said. “The credit report will show it. The thief won’t use that account for long before he dumps it and opens one somewhere else.”
Craft said his office gets a report of identity theft about once a month.
The defrauded woman said she has bought identity theft insurance.
“It’s been a roller coaster,” she said.
Her daily routine hasn’t changed, and she is relying on the powers that be to take care of the problem.
“All I need is food, clothing, and shelter,” she said. “I’ve turned the matter over to the authorities, and I hope it gets resolved.”
She is thankful for her family. She especially enjoys her five granddaughters, who range in age from two to 13.