Dealing with identity theft honestly seems like a nightmare, especially since it can pop up out of nowhere. One day you're just doing your thing and the next you're dealing with closing accounts, filing police reports, and scrambling to change every password you've ever made.
And it's not like you can just go to the identity store and get a new one; instead, you'll have to make hours and hours of phone calls and take extra precautions to try to get your personal information back under your control. And sadly, this type of crime is on the rise.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, reports of identity theft in 2020 doubled from what they saw in 2019.
So we asked members of the BuzzFeed Community to share what happened when their identities were stolen. Here are their stories:
1. "In 2008, my sister was pregnant with my nephew. She was driving unlicensed, unregistered, and uninsured, and got pulled over. She had a warrant out for traffic tickets a year prior. When the cop asked for her info, she gave my name, my birthday, and my address. I had never, ever been in trouble with the law so she thought giving them my name would be cool. So she got her three tickets in my name and went home."
2. "I had my identity stolen when I was 18 years old. The perpetrators: my own father and his girlfriend. He used my information to obtain electricity, gas, cable/internet, and credit cards. I was in high school when it started and didn’t realize it until I started getting calls about past-due bills. When I tried to buy a car, my credit was ruined."
"I’m 33 now and I’m dealing with having to remove things from my credit report and prove to courts that it wasn’t actually me who created the debt. It’s a nightmare. I’ll never get any money for it and I’ll continue to waste my time going to mediation to resolve these issues. I’ve contemplated filing for bankruptcy just to make it all go away."
3. "I accidentally left my wallet on top of my car in a major city at a mall. By the time I realized, it was already gone. Since then, I've had my identity assigned to food stamp accounts, different home addresses, cars that run toll posts, everything. It is a literal nightmare."
4. "I’m not sure how it was stolen but someone used my SSN to apply for credit cards and loans. I’m guessing it was due to having to enter my SSN multiple times for various financial aid sites for school. I didn’t know about it until I got mail addressed with a weird misspelling of my name from Capital One warning me that they got a suspicious application for a card with my info."
"I was still a college student so my credit history was too shallow for any of the fancy cards this person was applying for (they were going for like platinum or black versions of cards?? No way would I have been approved for those even through legal means!), so my money and accounts were untouched. But I had to spend a week or two making calls to cancel applications and get my credit report cleaned up. Just a huge pain."
5. "My dad left me when I was 11. Fast-forward to me at 22 and I got a letter from the government. Apparently he tried to open numerous credit cards with my name. It was flagged because of something with the Patriot Act and his address on the forms (credit card was through USAA)."
6. "I had someone try to file taxes under my SSN and claim me as a dependent (even though I was 23 in college). They did this to try and get my refund. Jokes on them: I owed taxes that year."
"I got a letter from the IRS saying that it had happened and I had to spend five hours in the local Social Security office to ensure that no one was working under my SSN and that nothing else was wrong. I had a hold on my credit for a while and for the last seven years, the IRS has sent me a special PIN number to put on my taxes so they can ensure that it is me."
7. "Soon after starting grad school, I started getting strange charges on my debit and credit cards. I contacted my banks every time I got a fraudulent charge and they canceled the stolen card and sent me a new card with a new number each time. I was convinced my laptop or phone was bugged somehow and that was how the thief was stealing my identity."
8. "My debit card numbers were stolen twice. The first time, someone booked a hotel room, ate out at a restaurant, and bought things at a gas station in Georgia. Called the bank and they said they couldn't do anything until the transactions went through."
"My husband told me to call the hotel and let them know someone there used a fake card. I did. The bank sent me a new card. The second time, someone made two $2,000 donations to a GoFundMe for anime. This drained my account and the bank told me they couldn't do anything until the transactions went through. We emailed GoFundMe and they took care of it. I've switched to a more local bank where it doesn't take an hour on hold to talk to someone."
9. "My mother used my SSN when I was a minor. Public utilities, a couple of credit cards, attempted apartment rentals, and car loans. What she was able to get, she defaulted on and left when I was 17. I had no clue about any of this until a person at the bank in town took pity on me and showed me the credit report."
10. "My sister had her identity stolen thanks to my dad. Apparently someone called him asking for my sister's Social Security number and her address. He doesn't speak a lot of English and thought it was the government calling to collect on student loans. He willingly handed over the information without really knowing who he was talking to. My sister had to freeze all of her accounts and so much more, and it'll be forever an ongoing battle for her."
11. "A few years ago I started getting phone calls from 'the IRS' with claims about my taxes and what I owed and that I needed to call back immediately. I looked on the IRS website and read that they’d never call you, that they’d only ever send you a letter. A few months later, I get my tax return check: It’s my first and last name but a different middle initial for a different amount than I expected."
12. "I’m one of the many victims of the payday loan data breach that happened years ago. I closed/paid off every single loan I had before that breach happened but that didn’t matter. I still occasionally get creepy 'ghost debt' collectors threatening to send the cops or process servers to my address (which they have along with the last four [digits] of my SSN)."
"I’ve even been sent letters for closed debt (which I reported to consumer affairs). I know they can’t actually do anything, but it still gets under my skin sometimes. Thank goodness for 'silence unknown callers' being a thing now."
13. "My mom had her identity stolen by her ex-landlord's son to buy three iPhone 11s and open an AT&T account. The sweet, sweet justice when he was cuffed was great. My mom got lucky that the son was an idiot but it highlights an issue of landlords having access to banking history, credit scores, and old addresses."
14. "Have you ever heard of SIM-jacking? Apparently it's when someone takes access of your phone line and transfers it to a new phone. I had that happen to me and lost service on my phone completely. I luckily was able to get Wi-Fi and found out this individual was trying to change my passwords on all my accounts by using the phone authentication since they had access to my phone line."
"This person went as far as to call my bank and pretend to be me to allow a transaction to go through since my bank blocked it. This person had access to my bank service app Venmo and email, all in a matter of minutes. I had to call my carrier to cancel the phone number and quickly unlink all my accounts that had my phone attached to it. It was really scary how fast they got access to everything and finding out they even pretended to be me on the phone with my bank really did it for me.
"I ended [up] having to get all-new bank accounts, file a police report, file reports with all credit bureaus, add additional security to my accounts, get a new phone number (I had my same phone number for 10 years), and deal with the anxiety of it happening again. They never caught the person but I now know more ways to protect my accounts and don't use any phone authentication with important apps."
Submissions have been edited for length and clarity.