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My Personal Identity Theft Experience

By Kate Vaillancourt, Certified Credit Union Financial Counselor (CCUFC)

Kate Vaillancourt, CCUFC

In addition to the Covid-19 outbreak in 2020, there was another outbreak going on in Maine – identity theft. From 2019 to 2020, reports of identity theft nationwide just about doubled. However, Maine saw numbers almost nine times greater during that same time period. Mainers reported 809 incidences of identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission in 2019; in 2020, that number grew to 7,246! I can’t tell you why we were hit so hard, but we were — and I was one of those “lucky” folks who had their identity stolen in 2020.

When it comes to identity theft, every victim’s story is different, but mine went something like this: The imposters used my information to file for unemployment benefits, apply for a line of credit, and claim my car was in an accident in downtown Portland while being driven by someone that I’ve never met. Thankfully, I was able to clear things up with the unemployment office (after the 3rd attempt by scammers); the line of credit was denied (because the scammer didn’t answer the identification questions correctly and my credit was already frozen); and my insurance company squared things away with the state of Maine — who, by the way, threatened to take away my right to be insured because of the fraudulent insurance claim. I didn’t know they could do that, but they can and almost did. Needless to say, my stress levels at that time were through the roof.

Thankfully — at least thus far — they haven’t made any new fraud attempts using my identity. My insurance company is allowed to keep me as a customer and I still keep my credit and unemployment benefits locked up like Fort Knox (the one in Kentucky, not the one with the view of Bucksport).

With the help of the Federal Trade Commission, I have educated myself and for the most part, feel better about my situation. I still monitor my credit regularly and pay attention to every bit of mail that comes to my house. Identity thieves can rack up bills that don’t report to the credit bureaus, so they are still a threat to my sense of well-being.

For some victims of identity theft, their information wasn’t compromised by their own carelessness, but by someone else — such as an employer, a creditor, an insurance company or even the government. Others are victims of scams. Either way, it isn’t any fun when it happens.

Regardless of the situation, the are things you can do to protect yourself and prepare. The Federal Trade Commission recommends the following:

  1. Read your credit card and bank statements carefully and often. Make sure you recognize every transaction. Call a vendor that doesn’t seem familiar or that you don’t remember doing business with. Pay special attention to unknown small amounts — they might be red flags to bigger transactions to come.
  2. If a bill doesn’t arrive as expected, call your lender. Verify they have your correct contact information and that no unauthorized changes have been made to your account, such as your address, phone number and email address.
  3. Read statements from your health insurance company and compare them to any bills from your medical providers. If something doesn’t match, make some calls to find out why. You want to be sure your insurance company isn’t paying for services you didn’t receive.
  4. Shred any document or card with your personal and/or financial information on it when you no longer need it.
  5. Review credit reports from all three major credit bureaus at least once a year. As a member of Acadia FCU, you can review your credit report any time by logging into your account online or with AcadiaGO. Simply tap Credit Score and stay on top of your credit. Contact us if you need help getting this set up. I’m also available to help you submit a request to TransUnion, Equifax and Experian for your free annual credit report.
  6. Do not give anyone your personal, financial, and/or medical information unless it is a necessary part of business that you know to be legitimate. No credit union, bank, or lender will call, text, or email because they need to verify your account information. If you get a suspicious call, hang up and call a number you know to be good (usually the number on your bank or credit union statement) to verify that your account is OK. Scammers are getting more and more creative in how they get information, so always pause and think before telling anyone anything.

My advice is to have a plan before you need it. Everyone’s plan will be different, so if you need help putting one together, I can assist with that. If you think your identity has been stolen, visit the FTC’s Identity Theft site to report it and find resources and direction.

I can also help you navigate this unfortunate situation. Reach out to me directly by sending an email to or calling 207-992-1060. Financial counseling is a service provided at no charge to members of Acadia Federal Credit Union.


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