Local Woman Victim of Identity Theft

Local Woman Victim of Identity Theft
By: Ryan Tate
ADVANCE, Mo. - It's spreading like a bad disease, even the Heartland isn't safe form it.  It's identity theft.

As many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year, and the consequences can be serious.

You could spend hundreds of dollars and just as many days repairing damage to both your credit report and your reputation.

You could also lose out on job opportunities, or be denied loans for education, housing or cars because of negative information on their credit reports.

In rare cases, you could even be arrested for crimes you didn't commit.

Of the 246,000 consumer complaints of ID theft in 2006, 3753 occurred in Missouri.  Deborah Hess of Advance may be one of those statistics.
Deborah was in line at the Walmart in Jackson and tried to pay for items with a check back in June. The teller said the check did not clear, and was rejected. That put Hess on a chase in which she discovered more than $1000 in checks cashed with her name, address, phone number and social security number, all in stores in Houston, Texas.
"I've never been to Houston, Texas. I have no relatives in Houston, Texas. I have no ties there what so ever," Hess said.
She has spent the last month trying to clear her name, but has no idea how someone stole her identity, or how to resolve it.
"When I begin asking questions, people ask for account numbers. I, of course, do not have them, because I did not open the accounts. They tell it is protocol not to give out anymore information because of identity theft," Hess said.
Hess was able to write a check Tuesday, but called Telecheck, the national check cashing company, and they said she was not able to. Hess said no money has come out of her account at the Bank of Advance, but has no idea what kind of credit damage this might have  caused.
"Do not ever take anything for granted, that it could not happen to you. I burn everything now, just to be careful," Hess said.

When you think of fighting back against ID theft, think of the three D's: deter, detect and defend.

"Deter" identity thieves by safeguarding your information.

"Detect" suspicious activity by routinely monitoring your financial accounts and billing statements.

"Defend" against ID theft as soon as you suspect a problem.