A Seattle woman says her identity has been stolen more than a dozen times since the massive Equifax security breach earlier this year.
Katie Van Fleet told local news outlets she’s speaking out as a warning to others. “I want to share my story and make people aware that this can happen to anybody,” she told KOMO-TV last week.
Van Fleet said her nightmare began in September when she received a thank you letter from Barneys New York about a credit line opened under her name. Over the next few weeks, similar letters from other stores arrived at her home.
“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 hadn’t applied for any of them. In total, Van Fleet said her identity was stolen 15 times.
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 filed a class-action lawsuit against Equifax for negligence.“The stories I hear [of identity theft] are heart-wrenching,” she said.
Equifax said earlier this month that a total of 145.5 million Americans may have been affected by the data breach in which hackers stole names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, driver’s license numbers and, in some cases, credit card numbers.
Experts say most adults with a credit history in the U.S. were likely victims of the breach. As such, all consumers ― including those who have never even signed up for an Equifax product ― have been advised to take steps to protect their identity and credit. Most importantly, experts say, people should be monitoring their credit report closely and consider freezing their credit, which essentially restricts access to a borrower’s credit report.
Van Fleet said it was a credit freeze that ultimately helped her stave off identity thieves. Since filing a police report and freezing her credit, she told KOMO that her credit-related problems have ceased.
She’s urged 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.”