A Seattle woman reported that her identity has been stolen over a dozen times in the wake of the massive Equifax security breach earlier this year.
Last week, Katie Van Fleet told KOMO-TV that she decided to speak out as a warning to others. “I want to share my story and make people aware that this can happen to anybody.”
Van Fleet’s nightmare started in September when she got a thank you letter from Barney’s New York for a credit line opened under her name. During the next few weeks, similar letters from other stores came filtering into her mailbox.
“I kept receiving letters from Kohl’s, from Macy’s, from Home Depot, from Old Navy saying, ‘Thank you for your application,’” she told Q13 News.
The problem was she never applied for any of those. In total, Van Fleet’s identity has now been stolen 15 times — and counting.
Van Fleet and her attorney, Catherine Fleming, told Q13 that based on the timing of the thefts, Van Fleet’s personal data was likely stolen during the Equifax breach.
Fleming has brought a class-action lawsuit against Equifax for its negligence. “The stories I hear [of identity theft] are heart-wrenching,” she said.
Equifax announced last month that a total of 145.5 million Americans were impacted by the data breach, where hackers took names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, driver’s license numbers and, in some cases, credit card numbers.
Experts projected that most adults with a credit history in the U.S. were likely victims of the breach. Accordingly, all consumers ― even those who have never signed up for an Equifax product ― should take immediate steps to protect their identity and credit. Above all, experts say, people should monitor their credit report closely and consider freezing their credit, which restricts access to a borrower’s credit report. Subscribe to The Morning Emaike up to the day’s most news.
Van Fleet noted that freezing her credit ultimately helped her ward off additional identity thieves. Since filing a police report and freezing her credit, she told KOMO that her credit-related problems have ceased.
She advises others to not be complacent about the Equifax breach. “I didn’t think this would ever happen to me,” she said. “So it’s been very frustrating. I feel extremely violated.”