Video: New identity theft nightmare

By George Lewis Correspondent
NBC News
updated 2/6/2006 7:42:35 PM ET 2006-02-07T00:42:35

Margaret Harrison, a young wife and mother living in San Diego, first noticed the problem four years ago when she applied for unemployment.

"They asked if I worked on a horse ranch in eastern Washington, and I said no," laughs Harrison. "[I'm] not quite the rancher type."

She investigated and found out a laborer named Pablo has been using her Social Security number. And while Margaret pays for credit monitoring, she says the Equifax credit reporting bureau never noticed the problem until she told the agency. Now Equifax has put a fraud alert on her account. And then there's this: Last month, the Bank of America sent her a new debit card bearing her name and Pablo's picture!

Margaret says the Bank of America claims it can't take any action against Pablo because he pays his bills on time — that her case is in what they call "a reactive state."

"Because currently it's not negatively impacting my credit, so I have no legal recourse for any action," says Harrison.

"It just kind of feels like we are not in charge of our destiny with our credit," says Margaret's husband, Courtney Harrison.

Bank of America declined our request for an interview about this story.  A spokesperson said Margaret Harrison’s case is "under investigation." Now, she has turned to the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) for help. The center says her case is not all that unusual.

"We've seen estimates of up to 20 percent of the Social Security numbers out there have some problem — one way or another in that regards," says Jay Foley with the ITRC.

Which means that millions of Americans could face the same kinds of hassles the Harrisons are going through right now.

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