Woman’s iden­tity stolen

Stratford Press - - News - By ILONA HANNE

A Strat­ford woman is frus­trated with how easy it was for some­one to use her name to run up thou­sands of dol­lars in un­paid bills.

Ni­cole Copeland went to the ANZ bank in Strat­ford in Septem­ber this year to rene­go­ti­ate her mort­gage.

“When I got there, they said I had bad credit and I would have prob­lems do­ing this. I was sur­prised as I had no rea­son for a bad credit rat­ing so asked who the debt was with.”

The bank told Ni­cole she had an un­paid debt of $1849 with a col­lec­tions com­pany, who Ni­cole says she has never had any con­tact with.

“I called the com­pany and they told me it was re­lated to a 2de­grees ac­count. I have never in my life had a 2de­grees ac­count as I have al­ways been with Voda­fone. It was def­i­nitely not me, but some­one us­ing my iden­tity.”

The col­lec­tions agency gave Ni­cole the email con­nected to the ac­count, but she didn’t recog­nise it.

“They also gave me the ad­dress used, and the only thing that rang a bell at first was that it was a Tau­ranga ad­dress, which is where my fam­ily live, but I didn’t recog­nise the ad­dress.”

Ni­cole be­lieves it was her de­ci­sion to pur­chase a car through a Face­book buy and sell page that gave the fraud­ster the op­por­tu­nity to steal her iden­tity.

“The day af­ter I spoke with the col­lec­tions agency I was still rack­ing my brain think­ing of who might live at that ad­dress. Then I re­mem­bered it was the street and house num­ber I had pur­chased a car from.”

Ni­cole says she pur­chased a Mazda CX7 last De­cem­ber from a pri­vate seller in Tau­ranga.

“I was look­ing for a car, and I was vis­it­ing fam­ily in Tau­ranga, I looked on the buy and sell pages for there as well as Taranaki. I found a car I liked and went to see it.”

She says when she went to test drive the car she gave the seller her driv­ing li­cence to hold on to as proof of her iden­tity.

“All I can think is she could have pho­tographed my li­cence or writ­ten down all the de­tails while I was out for the drive.”

2de­grees were able to con­firm to Ni­cole a phone and plan had been pur­chased on­line a few days af­ter Ni­cole had left her li­cence with the woman for half an hour.

“I can’t be­lieve all they needed was my li­cence num­ber to run up a huge debt, they got the lat­est iPhone with just a few clicks of a mouse.”

While it only took the fraud­ster a few min­utes to com­mit the crime, it has taken Ni­cole a lot longer to prove the debt isn’t hers.

“I have had to pro­duce util­ity bills in my name, show­ing I lived in Strat­ford not Tau­ranga at the time the phone was or­dered, as well as now, I have had to pay for a new li­cence to be is­sued to stop the old de­tails be­ing used again, and I have had to take time off work to talk to the po­lice, the col­lec­tions agency and to the phone com­pany all to clear my name.”

Fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion by Ni­cole un­cov­ered a sec­ond debt with Spark, to­talling $2,136.25.

“Again a phone had been or­dered, this time the lat­est, most ex­pen­sive Sam­sung on the mar­ket, de­liv­ered to the same ad­dress in my name, us­ing my li­cence num­ber.”

In to­tal, just un­der $4000 has been racked up in Ni­cole’s name.

“While I have man­aged to clear my name, it has taken me nu­mer­ous hours and work to do so. It seems it is eas­ier to pre­tend to be some­one else, than to prove you are re­ally you!”

Ni­cole has taken her sus­pi­cions to the po­lice, who are work­ing on iden­ti­fy­ing the fraud­ster. She warns oth­ers to be care­ful with their in­for­ma­tion.

“I thought I was do­ing the right thing, giv­ing some­one my ID while I took their car for a drive to prove I was who I said I was. I never thought some­one else would also use my ID to pre­tend to be me.”

Ni­cole Copeland is frus­trated with the ease with which some­one was able to steal her iden­tity and run up a debt in her name.

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