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A week after Allyson Nielsen, 25, and her fiancé moved in August 2015 from their Chicago, Illinois, apartment to a new one about four blocks away, she found out she was a victim of identity theft – as if moving isn’t stressful enough.
Nielsen, from Storm Lake, Iowa, and now living in Sioux Fall, South Dakota, signed up online to create Peoples Gas and Allstate accounts for utilities and renter’s insurance for her new apartment. As part of the sign-up process, Nielsen was required to enter her Social Security number for both accounts.
A week later, she received a phone call from U.S. Bank, which caught suspicious activity. Her Social Security number was being used by one or more people people attempting to open up bank accounts in her name. Nielsen called her mother, Lora Nielsen, who was on the way home to Storm Lake from Chicago after helping Nielsen move into the apartment, about the identity theft.
Lora contacted Citizens 1st National Bank in Storm Lake, which is where she worked at the time as a trust operations officer, and collaborated with an employee to stop Nielsen’s credit card and debit card right away. Lora now has the same position at First Dakota National Bank in Sioux Falls.
Calling the bank gave Lora time to get to Iowa and help Allyson take care of the situation. She also gave Allyson Experian’s contact information; Allyson called the credit protection agency as soon as she could to freeze her credit so it wouldn’t be affected.
“There was just a huge process to go through,” Lora said. “Paperwork like crazy, and the police report to fill out and we were just trying to cover all of our bases.”
Most of the paperwork was with credit card companies.With Nielsen having a full-time job at the time of the theft at David Yurman Jewelry, a high-end jewelry store in downtown Chicago, Lora filled out what paperwork she could to help make Nielsen’s life a little easier.
Nielsen works now as a delivery coordinator in Sioux Falls at Sullivans, a wholesale business supplying home décor, foliage and floral and Christmas décor.
“I would fill out as much as I could and then scan them and send them to her so she could print, sign it and get everything sent off,” Lora said. “And of course, you know you were having to send your driver’s license and all that kind of stuff with it, which was kind of scary too and even now she’s still hesitant about giving that stuff out, which she has every right to be.”
When Lora found out her daughter was an identity theft victim, she couldn’t stop thinking about where the theft had come from and what places Nielsen and Nielsen’s fiancé recently had contacted. “How do you call somebody and say, ‘oh, by the way, I just moved, but I also had my identity taken,’ so it just hit them at a really bad time,” Lora said.
Nielsen said whoever got her information attempted to open credit cards at U.S. Bank, Citibank, Cabela’s, The Home Depot, Chase Bank, Capital One, Bank of America and Lowe’s. All but one of the credit applications were approved and opened. U.S. Bank suspected identity fraud and contacted her.
“I had to call all of these other companies and explain to them that it wasn’t me,” Nielsen said. “Some people were even spelling my name incorrectly.”
Nielsen’s experience shows how many companies fail to thoroughly examine a person’s information before opening up an account.
“It’s just so easy for them to give somebody credit right there,” Lora said. “To me, that’s the frustrating part. There’s so much concern about identity theft, but yet these companies don’t take the initiative to double check the information before they give you credit.”
It took Nielsen three to four months to work out things financially. She said it took six months before she was able to relax from the entire situation. While she was at work, she had to make several phone calls during the day to take care of what was going on.
Nielsen describes her experience as “crazy, stressful times.” Not only did she have to get a new credit account, but she’s also very hesitant now to give out her personal information.
“Now all these companies have my Social Security number and it’s really kind of scary,” she said. “Like, my information’s just out there.”