In appreciation of National Protect Your Identity Week (October 20-27, 2012), we are sharing some real life stories of victims of identity theft. Malcolm Byrd’s story shows how identity theft can change a person’s life drastically.
It’s one thing having a bad credit score, restricting you from taking out affordable loans. But being put behind bars is another potential consequence of identity theft that victims may face. That is much more restrictive than a blemished credit report.
In Malcolm Byrd’s case, his nightmare battle with a particularly sinister identity thief began in 1998, when he saw his name in a local newspaper attached to a stranger who had been arrested in a major drug sting.
An Embarrassing Mistake
Byrd, a Milwaukee native, had recently married and was about to start a family when he saw the embarrassing error in the newspaper. He contacted the editors immediately, who then filed a correction after Malcolm explained that the person arrested was not the Malcolm Byrd they identified. However, this was only the beginning of Malcolm’s long battle against the thief.
Treated Like A Criminal
The real Malcolm Byrd was pulled over not long after he contacted the newspaper. The officers at the scene were only interested in Byrd initially because he had been speeding. However, after the police ran Byrd’s criminal record and saw warrants out stemming from serious charges, the officers had Byrd laying on the pavement in handcuffs.
Incidents like this continued for the next five years. The fake Malcolm Byrd had not only opened up new accounts using the identity, destroying the real Malcolm’s once solid financial standing, but was giving the name to law enforcement every time he was caught in a criminal situation.
Only His Word
All of this resulted in Malcolm losing his job as a nurse assistant because the hospital he worked for thought he had lied about his criminal record. Worst of all, these arrests coincided with the births of his children, leaving him and his wife, both model citizens, without steady income. After one incident in 2003, arresting officers threatened to call child protective services on Byrd as they weren’t convinced he was an innocent victim of identity theft.
Had Byrd taken initiative before the first time he saw his name in the newspaper, he may have been able to have more ammunition in the fight to clear his identity. A credit monitoring program could have alerted Malcolm to strange activity going on under his name, and he may have been able to stop the thief before he was arrested.