stolen identity

Real Credit Stories: The Disruption of Identity Theft

Several years ago I signed up for a credit card for the sole purpose of getting a free t-shirt. It seemed a harmless act. I later cancelled the card and life continued as usual.

Three years later, before renting a new apartment, I ran a credit report to see where things stood. I was stunned to see multiple claims of unpaid debt. According to the report I owed hundreds to phone and cable companies for services provided 40 miles from where I actually lived.

I shirked my responsibilities and spent several hours on the phone with credit reporting agencies, companies that had issued the accounts, and the police. Regret overcame me as I remembered opening the credit card just for the freebie.

Months passed and every so often my life was interrupted to attend to fraud-related paperwork. I spent hours digging up and copying documents to prove my actual residency, requesting police reports, getting documents notarized, and mailing and faxing proof of my innocence to the appropriate entities.

Ultimately, I provided a compelling enough case for fraud and the charges were dropped. My credit report was, once again, clean. I finally stopped receiving calls from collection agencies nearly three years after discovering the fraud.

Mine is a best-case scenario. The debt charges were dropped, and I probably spent less than $50 in notary fees, faxes, and priority mail. The incident had no lasting impact on my credit. But, it has changed my behavior.

I now decline even the most compelling credit opportunities, knowing that no short-term benefit is worth the potential hassle. I shred everything with my name on it before it gets discarded. I fiercely protect my personal information, writing “to be provided” on requests for my SSN. Most importantly, I check my credit report much more often, knowing that if I wait until I need something, it could take months – or even years – to recover.



Rachel W. is an actual employee at This story is hers… really hers. Every story differs.

This article is provided for general guidance and information. It is not intended as, nor should it be construed to be, legal, financial or other professional advice. Please consult with your attorney or financial advisor to discuss any legal or financial issues involved with credit decisions.

Published by permission from, Inc.  © 2017, Inc.  All rights reserved.