Published: July 10, 2024
2 min 31 seconds

How one woman found herself in debt she didn’t create


Emily Lockwood

Staff writer

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A woman holding a receipt at a desk

The Story of how one woman found herself in debt she didn’t create 

Lynn Beattie’s life was turned upside down when a random package she had not ordered arrived at her doorstep. After some digging, she realized an account had been set up in her name where eight items had been ordered. The identity thieves were able to find her name, address and date of birth to aid in stealing her identity

How the scam happened

Identity thieves managed to steal Lynn’s identity by exploiting vulnerabilities in places she least expected it. They pieced together her personal identifiable information from various public sources online and used it to commit fraud in her name. 

How they got Lynn’s identity

Lynn’s personal identifiable information was publicly available through various channels—social media, online databases, and even unsecured websites. The identity thieves gathered her name, address and date of birth to open a credit account in her name. They also created a fake phone number and email address. By the time Lynn noticed, the damage was extensive.

"It was really scary,” Lynn recalls. “I did not really know how to unpick it all and how to protect my identity in the future.”

How you can protect yourself from identity theft

Understanding identity fraud is the first step toward protecting yourself. Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information—such as your Social Security number, credit card details, or other information—without your permission to commit fraud or other crimes.

Tips to protect your identity:

  • Monitor your credit regularly: Keep an eye on your credit reports for any unusual activity.
  • Use strong passwords: Create complex passwords and change them regularly.
  • Be cautious with your personal identifiable information: Avoid sharing personal information on unsecured websites and social media.
  • Secure your devices: Use antivirus software and ensure your devices are protected.
  • Shred documents: Properly dispose of any documents containing sensitive information.

Your information can be publicly available through data breaches, social media oversharing, or even public records. It's crucial to be aware of where your information might be exposed and take steps to safeguard it.

Consider using comprehensive identity theft protection services. LifeLock monitors your personal information and alerts you to potential threats, helping you stay one step ahead of identity thieves.

Impact of identity theft

For Lynn, having her identity stolen had more than a financial impact. This experience left her feeling anxious and exposed. This can be seen through Scam Artists—an educational campaign using art to visually demonstrate the emotional impact of cybercrime in collaboration with award-winning psychologist Lee Chambers.

Lynn’s brain activity was monitored when asked to recall the incident. It showed a heightened emotional state that can be seen in the variation of her brain waves, likely linked to feelings of violation in the present to the worries about what this might mean in the future. When presented with cyber protection, Lynn’s neural activity suggested a return to relaxation and psychological wellbeing.

Resolution: Lynn’s path to recovery

Despite the daunting experience, Lynn was able to recover from the identity theft ordeal. With the help of a dedicated identity theft protection service, she managed to clear her name and restore her financial stability. However, the emotional toll was significant. Victims of identity theft often experience stress, anxiety, and a sense of violation, with a surprising number of people unaware of how prevalent and severe identity theft can be.

Don’t be alone if this happens to you

Protect yourself by following the tips mentioned above and staying vigilant. Remember, identity theft can happen to anyone, but by taking proactive steps, you can reduce your risk. For added peace of mind, LifeLock can help.

Editorial note: Our articles provide educational information for you. LifeLock offerings may not cover or protect against every type of crime, fraud, or threat we write about. Our goal is to increase awareness about cyber safety. Please review complete Terms during enrollment or setup. Remember that no one can prevent all identity theft or cybercrime, and that LifeLock does not monitor all transactions at all businesses.

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