The most famous, widely publicized story of identity theft was that of Michelle Brown, a 29-year old bank employee. She appeared before the US Senate Committee Hearing on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Technology Terrorism and Government Information on July 12, 2000 and stated her gruesome experience as victim of identity theft.
Michelle Brown is an ordinary citizen who started working at an early age of fifteen to help finance her university studies. She had a good credit standing for the past eleven years since she was seventeen. She has never committed any crime, not even the slightest offense. Until one day, on January 12, 1999, she received a call from Bank of America inquiring about her payment for a truck she apparently purchased a month back. She took the necessary steps – placed fraud alert on her credit reports, cancelled all her cards, and even placed fraud alert on her driver’ license.
For almost two years, from January 1998 to July 1999, somebody was impersonating her. The thief has spent $50,000 worth of goods and services. She practically damaged the real Michelle Brown’s credit standing, and worst of all, she got involved in drug trafficking, and dragged the real Michelle Brown’s name to the Chicago Federal Courts. Erroneous entries were filed on her arrest record. She had an instant prison record when the impersonator was captured and detained at the Chicago Federal Prison.
Michelle Brown’s story has been made into a film in 2004. The plot started with the thief stealing her rental application from a property management office. The thief immediately subscribed to a telephone service and other utilities. She also tried to obtain credit cards from different stores. She purchased a $32,000 truck and had $5000 worth of liposuction. She obtained a duplicate driver’s license. The highlight was when the impersonator got involved into drugs. She was a fugitive for half a year and was caught trafficking 3000 pounds of marijuana in May 1999.
The real Michelle Brown on the other hand, experienced grave trauma when she was accosted at the Los Angeles Customs on her return trip from Mexico. A typical identity theft victim, she explained herself in tears while authorities continue to treat her guilty until proven innocent. It fumed her fear further. She was tormented by the pain of having to prove her innocence every single time. She was forced to submit various forms, make a lot of phone calls to different companies, and notarized a lot of documents to prove her real identity. She experienced hell while restoring the character she has kept clean for the past 29 years.
In her statement before the Senate, she urged the government to promote initiatives to help victims of identity theft clear their records. She also expressed her support for Senator Feinstein’s Identity Theft Prevention Act of 2000.