Identity theft: It can happen to you

Hearing the horror stories from victims of identity theft can be scary enough to digest. Seeing just how their life is used against them to attain money, items, or other information can make even the coldest person become sympathetic for the victim. We as humans believe that we have this invisible shield that can protect us from these happening. Last month, I got a firsthand feel of how horrific identity theft can be when mine was used against my family.

There are so many ways that identity theft can be executed. Once someone steals your identity, it’s often hard to stop them, because there are numbers of ways they can use your identity against you. My case has to deal with somebody getting a hold of my information about my family history through my personal information, in order to prey on my relatives.
Karen Carroll, my mother, called me one morning telling me that something weird was going on. She proceeded to tell me that my grandmother had received a phone call the night before from someone who she was told was me. The voice on the other end of the phone call said that I was on my way up to see her, and that my car had been involved in a solo accident, and that I needed money to fix it. According to my grandmother, she didn’t believe it was me at first, because the voice didn’t exactly match. Upon questioning if it was truly me, the voice on the other end proceeded to persuade my grandmother with information that only “my family” would know: names of family members, addresses, details of family pictures we took, etc. After quieting her concerns, the voice told her that “I” would be sending somebody to get money from her. This progressed to somebody coming and taking a large sum of money from my grandmother at her house, and nothing was ever heard from these people again.
After reading up on who could’ve done this, it turns out that this is not an unusual. According to an article by ABC News, this happens more than you would think. The report claims that scammers prey on grandparents for their love of their grandchildren. It makes them an easy target when it comes to their age, because at that age they are less likely to put clues together. These scammers will call the grandparents late at night so they are close to sleeping, or asleep. This limits the brain process to react to signs that this may not be their grandchildren. An article by The Seattle Times backs up the previous report, proving that this happens more than we think.
“I just couldn’t believe that somebody would take advantage of a woman who does nothing but care for those around her,” said Karen. “She would help anybody without thinking twice, because that’s who she is.”
Over Thanksgiving, I sat down with my grandmother, Rose Schnars, and talked to her about what had happened. She told me that she was made to believe it was me because of the way that the person on the phone had formed questions and statements to sound reliable.
“When I asked why it didn’t sound like you,” Rose said, “the person told me that it was because they had been drinking, and that’s why I believed it. They did their homework. The man told me that he was bringing a cuckoo clock from Amish country because of a picture that we had taken together.”
The scary truth behind that, is that my grandmother had a cuckoo clock in her old home back in Pittsburgh when I was a child. There is a picture in our family album with her and I in it, and the cuckoo clock is in the background on the wall.
It happens all the time, and more caution needs to be taken. Getting the word out to others is the best thing to do. Pay attention to what somebody is saying over the phone if you can’t quite recognize the voice. If they ask too many questions, or give odd answers, here’s one tip that I found online to check that it is the person that they say it is: tell them that you’ll call them back because you can’t hear them well, and call the real person that someone may be pretending to be, and ask if they can hear you better. If the person doesn’t understand what you’re asking, then you know it’s not who they said they would be.