DURANT, OK-The Federal Trade Commission said ten million Americans fall victim to identity theft every year. One of them, a North Texas woman, struggled for months to clean up her credit and her reputation after her personal information was stolen last year. Victoria Maranan sat down with her and the investigator who cracked the case to tell us how you can protect yourself from this permanent crime.
"It was a pain. I bet I spent ten hours a week working on cancelling all the cards they're trying to approve."
Just a week after Brandi Cranmer moved to North Texas last August, she received dozens of credit card approval requests in the mail and calls from credit companies. She knew something was wrong.
"The scary thing was that one of the credit card companies that contacted me to verify my address and I found out that the person who stole my identity at that point lived in the apartment complex behind me," she said. "They could watch everything I did. They knew what kind of car that I drove, they had everything; my social security, my birthday, my prior addresses, my driver's license."
Cranmer felt she was being watched that's why she moved to a new apartment immediately, but the problem didn't stop there.
"I thought I had everything set up and things died down for a little bit," she said.
Months after filing a report with Dallas Police, Cranmer got a call from a Durant investigator after area banks reported seeing a series of forged checks being deposited under her name.
"Some of our local banks reported a series of forgeries that had some real common themes to them; same defendants, same names, same addresses and multiple variations of those names and addresses."
Bryan County D.A.'s Criminal Investigator David Cathey is still working Cranmer's case nearly a year later. In January, he found 29-year-old Megan Carter Sanders with forged checks, a copy of Cranmer's Texas Driver's License and credit cards.
Sanders was arrested by McKinney Police in February and has since been in and out of jail.
"Sometimes finding those people who create those accounts is almost impossible unless they do some things like these defendants did to bring attention to themselves," said Cathey.
Cathey met with Cranmer to show her items Sanders had in her possession and Cranmer was shocked with what she saw.
"I was able to see all the things that she had opened in my name, as well as a picture of her, and she could've passed off as me," said Cranmer.
"I think there's every reason to believe that she posed as this lady in the Dallas-Fort Worth area," said Cathey.
Cathey said they haven't determined exactly how Sanders obtained Cranmer's information, but he said anyone's personal information can be compromised at any time. Thieves can get your information simply by going through your mail or trash or by hacking credit and debit card scanners to access your accounts. And identity theft cases are nearly impossible to close.
"They do get solved but we got people who are charged with crimes here and they're convicted with a similar crime in other places. But we don't know where this lady's information resides now, I mean these people had it in their possession and they used it but we don't know who they shared it with," he said.
"They can sell my information to someone else or get it to someone else, just a friend or a buddy so it's not over for me," said Cranmer.
But Cranmer said she'll keep fighting.
"It takes a lot of work and a lot of effort to track them down and you have to be an advocate for yourself because if you're not, nothing's ever gonna get done," said Cranmer.
Cathey said there's no sure way to protect yourself, but there are some steps you can take. Secure your mailbox, shred bank statements and keep a close eye on your credit.
"Use some care about where you use your personal information, know where they've been used and keep track of that," said Cathey.
Cathey said forgery charges are pending against Sanders and two other suspects. Sanders is currently in the Lamar County Jail.