Case Study: Thieves Use Stolen Identity for Retail Therapy

Katie Smith* was living an upright life—working for a large manufacturer, saving for retirement and being a good neighbor—when she received a voicemail from Kohl’s department store about activity on her newly opened account.

The only problem was she didn’t have a Kohl’s credit card. Someone had used her Social Security number, date of birth and address to open an account there and at 14 other retail stores, ultimately running up $18,000 in fraudulent charges in her name. The news left her reeling.

“I thought I was going to be sick on the spot,” Smith said. “You feel vulnerable. It’s not like they stole my car. They stole my identity—and I didn’t realize it for weeks.” Even though she’d been careful—shredding her mail and using different complex passwords for each of her accounts—somehow someone was able to get ahold of her personal information.

Katie called her insurance agent who had recently added identity theft coverage from CyberScout to her homeowner’s policy. “When I found out the annual coverage for identity theft was less than what it cost for one Friday night dinner, I thought ‘Why not?’—after all, anything could happen.” And, it did.

A claims representative connected her to an CyberScout fraud investigator, Maria Valenzuela, who immediately began working on Smith’s case.

“Maria was reassuring from the start,” Katie explained. “We looked at my credit report together, and I saw all of the places where they . . . were trying to open accounts.” Without CyberScout as an ally, Katie said she would have been lost.

“When I looked at the credit reports, I couldn’t identify the places I needed to call,” Katie said. “Maria knew who to call, which company was represented by each code, and she had all of the numbers.” Even with all the contact information, Maria and Katie together spent three and a half hours that first day reporting the fraudulent charges to the companies.

Additionally, Maria tracked which companies had sent Smith affidavits, which are sworn declarations by Katie that she is not responsible for the charge. Maria also:

• Tracked when signed affidavits were returned and followed up with creditors to track the progress and resolution of each investigation.

• Removed erroneous information from Katie’s credit reports.

• Updated Smith on next steps, when she’d call back and consistently followed through.

In the five months that followed the initial report to CyberScout, Katie found things didn’t go smoothly even after doing everything right, “There were times we had to pull out tracking numbers to prove that we’d sent the affidavits in. One bureau said that I didn’t have any inquiries, and then they said I did have an inquiry that I didn’t respond to–it was crazy. If you don’t have someone like Maria tracking every communication and every document, I don’t know how you’d do it.”

Throughout it all, Katie found that Maria supported her emotionally and professionally. After working closely with Maria for five months, there were only two inquiries that need to be removed from one bureau. “Going through the process, you don’t realize how draining it is,” she said. “Maria kept everything moving forward. Without her follow-up, professionalism–If I had to do this on my own—I know that I wouldn’t have things wrapped up by now. I know that I wouldn’t be where I am today without CyberScout. You want to have CyberScout on your side.”

* Names have been changed to protect customer privacy.