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The Resource Center Credit Fraud & Credit Monitoring | article

Wisconsin Man Foots Bill For Thieves' Spending Spree, And Then Some

It’s one thing to have a bad credit score, as it means you are restricted from taking out affordable loans. However, actually being put behind bars — a potential consequence of identity theft that victims might face — is much more restrictive than a blemished credit report.

For some who suffer from identity fraud, the thieves are faceless bandits causing them to be wary about their every move. 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.

It started out simply as 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, which would include time in jail, officers with drawn weapons and the threat of losing his young children.

Despite his innocence, police treat him 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.

Officials believed the record over 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 service 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 in too deep a financial quagmire.