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The Resource Center Identity Theft & Protection | article

Identity Theft Worthy Of The Big Screen

In appreciation of National Protect Your Identity Week (October 20-27, 2012), we are sharing some real life stories of victims of identity theft. We'll start with Michelle Brown, who took her case of identity theft all the way to the U.S. Senate.

National Protect Your Identity Week

Some cases of identity theft are so unbelievable they are like stories tailor made for a TV movie. Unfortunately for Michelle Brown, her story isn’t fiction dreamed up by the creative forces at the Lifetime Movie Network, but a real-life case of Identity Theft.

In 1998, Brown had done what thousands of American’s do every year when she filled out a rental application in her landlord's property management office. She thought nothing of putting down personal information like her driver’s license and Social Security number when filling out the application, just as she had done numerous times in the past.

Real-Life Villian

Heidi Ille, a complete stranger to Brown, was able to obtain Brown’s application. Ille used the information on the document, including facts as ordinary as Brown’s date of birth, to successfully apply for a drivers license in Brown’s name.

More Than Financial Damage

The fraud didn’t stop there, Ille went on to open up credit card accounts using Brown’s identity, and wound up leaving Brown with over $50,000 in debt. It got even more serious when Ille started taking part in an extensive drug smuggling ring, giving Brown's name to authorities when she got caught.

When Ille was caught she was put behind bars for theft and drug smuggling, but there was no statute in place at the time to clear Brown of the damage Ille caused to her credit score and remove the fraudulent activity from her credit report.

Fighting for Justice

Brown fought with the California state legislature for years after she became a victim of identity theft, eventually bringing her case before the U.S. Senate on July 12, 2000. After Brown’s testimony, national laws were enacted that would help victims of identity theft recover.

Brown’s story made it to the small screen in 2004 when Lifetime Television aired Identity Theft: The Michelle Brown Story. The movie was a ratings success for the network, and brought the problem of identity theft to a larger audience.