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Lawton woman's identity stolen 15 years ago, still recovering

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LAWTON Okla_ A Lawton woman's identity was stolen 15 years ago, and she's still doing damage control to this day.

Vickie Johnson said the woman stole her purse, along with her driver's license, credit cards and social security card. A few weeks later, someone started using them to open up accounts. Unfortunately, experts say identity theft is getting easier.

Johnson said authorities never caught the woman who stole her identity, but they did catch some members of the con ring the woman worked for. However, by that time, Johnson's credit was ruined, her money was depleted and she was still buried in paperwork to claim her identity back.

December is identity theft awareness month. Johnson said she is hoping her story will be a caution to others, but experts say in today's technology-driven world, the net of possible identity thieves is wider.

Vickie Johnson said the only way to describe having your identity stolen is like living in a nightmare.

"How am I going to get reimbursed?," Johnson asked. "I am going to have to get my driver's license redone. Are they going to believe who I am now that they've got my stuff? You know, I had nothing."

Johnson said it took her two years just to complete all the necessary paperwork to get her identity recovered. Internet specialist James Kurth said unfortunately, the Internet has made it easier for today's thieves.

"It exposes us to a world-wide crime syndicate," Kurth said. "There's software and web sites out there that can show you where those are coming from. A lot of those are from eastern European countries, those cyber attacks."

He also said the rise in online shopping elevates the risk of identity theft. He advises shoppers use a credit card instead of debit card.

"Debit cards are tied to your main account. If that gets compromised, you're going to be in a world of hurt financially. They're going to drain your account. You don't know how long it's going to take to resolve the issue. Credit card companies work really well rectifying the situation for you."

Johnson said all these years later, she still is still trying to safeguard her identity

"I am still paranoid to this day. I feel like I am a little more lax than what I was. Well, I am still more careful than what I was, but I think I need to step it up."

Kurth said it's important to remember the three "D's" in protecting yourself from identity theft: deter, detect and defend. He said you can also go to the Federal Trade Commission's web site to learn more about protection or what to do if it happens to you.

Kurth also said the FTC advises taking care of these things if you fall victim to identity theft:

"Place a fraud alert on your credit reports, request a copy of your credit reports, close any of those accounts immediately, file a complaint wit the FTC and also file a police report where the actual crime took place."

He said it's a not a quick fix, but the beginning of a long process in getting your identity back.

 

 

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