At this point, it may seem that identity theft is so pervasive that it’s becoming less serious: It seems as if all you have to do is notify your bank of any fraudulent credit card charges and then move on with your life. However, consider these recent instances of identity theft to see how these cases went far beyond a charge on a credit card bill. These examples make it clear. Identity theft can impact your entire life, and you should consider contacting a lawyer who specializes in helping victims regain control over their financial lives.
Identity Theft Can Impact Your Entire Life
In 2003, Tony Chilicas lost his wallet. He immediately canceled his credit cards, but he lost something else on that day—his identity. He had been carrying his original Social Security card in his wallet, and its loss would forever change his life. For the next 17 years, he dealt with the repercussions from at least 20 people in 10 states using his name and Social Security Number for employment and income taxes. Year after year, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) would send Chilicas bills for tens of thousands in unpaid taxes. His credit score fell. He even delayed marrying his fiancée for years because he was unwilling to subject her to the chaos of his financial situation.
While Chilicas’ case is horrendous, it’s by no means unique: During one internal review, the IRS concluded that there were at least 1.1 million taxpayers who were victims of identity theft—having false returns filed under their names–within just a five year period.
In September 2021, Katrina Pierce was arrested for aggravated identity theft and a host of other charges. Pierce had previously been convicted for filing 180 false federal tax returns and defrauding Illinois of more than $146,000 after she’d created a fictitious child care provider. According to the recent indictment, Pierce has now been charged with filing false COVID assistance loans and tax returns. In the new returns, she allegedly adopted the identities of homicide victims. Prosecutors have charged that, in one return, she claimed a 7-year-old child as a dependent, which entitled her to a Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit. But the child had been murdered in Chicago in 2015.
It Can Happen, Even if You’re a Celebrity
Known for his roles on the Walking Dead and other dramas, character actor Michael Cudlitz had his identity stolen earlier this year. In his case, identity thieves purchased a Mercedes Benz in his name. Then, they proceeded to illegally park the car until Cudlitz eventually received more than $600 in unpaid parking tickets. The Los Angeles parking authority concluded that a police report—stating Cudlitz was a victim of identity theft—was not sufficient evidence to relieve him of the debt.
Cudlitz came forward to tell a local news station about his case, not because he needed more time on television, but because he’d heard an earlier news report about another person who had been the victim of the same crime. Her identity was used for a fraudulent car purchase; she, too, was told to pay hundreds of dollars in the thieves’ unpaid parking tickets. The local authorities knew about the ongoing pattern of criminal behavior, but they would not coordinate their work to help the victims.
Famous or not, anyone can be the victim of identity theft. And a stolen credit card number is just the tip of the identity theft iceberg.
If you’ve been impacted by identity theft, contact a Consumer Credit Litigation attorney with a track record of helping clients successfully repair their credit, correct credit reports, and even obtain compensation to restore them financially.