Identity theft can happen to anyone, any time of year. Thieves out there would love to use your name to get a few credit cards and then go on a shopping spree. It happened to one small business owner and the toll was enormous.
“You ruined my life and your own life."
That's Hong Fang's message to the scam artist who stole her identity two different times and opened up several credit cards in her name, destroying her credit.
“My credit score before is over 800. After he effect me, the one time the lowest is only 200 something. No credit card company want to open any account with me," she said.
And it impacted her trucking business.
“One time I tried to go to get gas station and get my gas and the credit card denied it,“ she said.
And Fang wasn't the only victim.
“This person would get people’s information and then he would try to open up credit cards by calling the credit card company saying he was an authorized user and he needed the card sent to an address," said US Postal Inspector, Dominick Riley.
There were 25 victims in this case. Dollars stolen from Fang's credit card alone, “At least $20,000 to $30,000,” she said.
Fang says one way to avoid falling victim to a scam like this one, "I won’t release any of my personal information on the phone.”
Another piece of advice: Check your credit card statements often. If you don't, and you become a victim of identity theft, Fang says, “It’s terrible. It’s a nightmare.”
The conman in this case is a repeat offender, according to inspectors. Four arrests for identity theft or fraud and prison time didn't stop him. Even while behind bars, inspectors say he was opening up credit cards in Hong Fang's name.
For information for consumers and businesses to deter, detect and defend against identity theft, the Federal Trade Commission has set up an identity theft website to help you.