Mendon resident, identity theft victim tells his story
By Brent Curtis
Staff Writer | January 14,2013
Bradford Broyles was shocked to learn this month that he had legally relocated to the Bronx.
The Mendon resident and former Rutland County GOP chairman said he has no plans to leave Vermont.
But in the span of less than two weeks, someone in possession of his personal information did just that by gaining access to his credit cards and banking accounts to give him a new inner city address.
“I got a call out of the blue from a detective in New York who told me they arrested a guy on a domestic battery charge and, while searching his vehicle, found a folder with all my banking information and personal information,” Broyles, 48, said Friday. “He had everything. My Social Security number, applications for loans, real estate information. You name it.”
Attempts to learn about the case and the man Broyles said was arrested by contacting NYPD were unsuccessful.
How the stranger obtained such detailed files on him is something that Broyles said police in New York told him they are still investigating.
The damage done by the identity theft, on the other hand, is all too clear, he said.
A credit check that Broyles performed the day police called him showed that his credit cards had been maxed out to the tune of more than $4,000 and withdrawals had been made from his checking account.
In addition, new credit accounts and applications had been made in his name and, presumably to delay discovery, a $1,200 payment had been made on one of his cards.
Perhaps most shocking of all, Broyles said, was the speed in which the changes were made.
The first transaction occurred on Dec. 22. By Jan. 3, when police stumbled onto the file, Broyles said there were dozens of purchases that were made using his credit. Most, he said, were for items such as jewelry and high-end electronics.
“Anything that could be sold in a hurry for cash,” he said. “I received a fraud warning yesterday from one of my credit cards but it came after the card was maxed out. There was just a flurry of transactions.”
The speed with which his financial life could be co-opted and disposed of left Broyles shaken.
“It’s really scary,” he said. “I’m always careful about what I do online and I use secure sites. I’m not out there throwing personal information into the public domain.”
According to Janet Murnane, director of the Vermont Attorney General’s Consumer Assistance Program, it doesn’t take much personal information for identity thieves to gain access to personal finances.
“Some of these people are very sophisticated,” she said. “They can use the Internet and a small amount of information to learn more about a person.”
State crime statistics don’t track individual identity thefts — which are recorded instead as various types of fraud.
However, in 2012 alone, Murnane said her office received 75 complaints of identity theft — a number she estimated was far smaller than the actual number of cases reported to police.
For victims of identity theft, Murnane suggests a complete and thorough review of credit reports followed by placing a freeze or fraud alert on the accounts and calls to reporting agencies to dispute unsanctioned items.
Tampered accounts should be closed and law enforcement agencies should be notified of fraudulent use of an account along with the Federal Trade Commission and the state attorney general’s office, according to the Consumer Assistance website.
As for prevention, limiting the amount of personal information given out online or through other channels is a good idea, she said.
“The most important thing I think is for people to be vigilant,” she said. “Check credit reports and billing statements. These crimes can take moments to commit but they’re very hard to clean up.”