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The Resource Center Identity Theft & Protection | article

Like Family: How Being Too Trusting Can Lead to Financial Ruin

Panagiota Bazalekos of Philadelphia claimed she was just trying to help out a friend when she was charged with identity theft in October 2012. A confidant of the 47-year-old was casually discussing her ambition of taking out a mortgage one afternoon in a local salon when Bazalekos offered some assistance.

Be wary of anyone with “connections”
Bazalekos told the victim, who had been a longtime acquaintance of Bazalekos and her family, that her boyfriend, 34-year-old Fadi Awad, had connections with lenders who could assist her in obtaining a new home loan. However, instead of helping the woman, Awad ended up robbing the victim of thousands of dollars over a two-year span.

Never trust someone else with your banking information
The fraud started when Awad told the woman that he would need three personal checks as well as her Social Security number to get the lending process in motion. In total, he demanded more than $32,000 from the victim, promising the payout from the loan would be more than enough to cover the expense.

If requests persist, be wary
Instead of getting her money, Awad asked the woman for more checks, and the victim obliged, not suspecting that Bazalekos would set her up for identity fraud. She did get suspicious, however, when she started receiving credit cards at her address under Awad and Bazalekos’ name, as well as accounts in her name that she had never signed up for.

The final straw was when she was informed by a local bank that a withdrawal of $14,000 had been taken out of her account which she had not authorized. After contacting authorities, it was revealed that Bazalekos and Awad had been opening up all sorts of accounts using the victim’s personal information, ruining her credit score and ultimately resulting in her being denied a mortgage when she applied through a legitimate lender.

This victim learned the hard way that trusting anyone with personal information like a Social Security number, even close family friends, could lead to a very muddied credit report. In this case, the victim lost thousands of dollars and saw a longtime relationship come to an end.