May 1, 2013 7:37 AM by Kristen Holloway
Imagine going to buy a house and finding out you already own a house, plus a car and multiple loans but you are in possession of none it. We're talking about identity theft and that's exactly what happened to one Acadiana family.
Gerrad and Donna Green experienced identity theft first-hand. Gerrad says after losing his wallet in 2008, he had no idea his identity was stolen until a few months later when he tried to buy a home.
"I never thought it would happened to me, I was like that happens to other people. I don't believe in identity theft. I was like what can they steal from me... I found out they can steal a whole lot," said Green.
Back in 2008 Gerrad and Donna Green were recently married, started a family and wanted to buy a house.
Green says he entered Lafayette Neighborhood Counseling Services, a financial planning business with high expectations of becoming a homeowner. He instead was met with major challenges.
"The first process was like they had to do a credit check and when they did the credit check she was saying well you have a lot of unpaid things on your credit," said Green.
Green says he was shocked, confused and hearing the news, turned his life completely upside down.
"I had cars, loans, bankruptcies, all kinds of things in my name I never applied for and I didn't even really know anything about. I don't even know what bankruptcy is really," said Green.
In order to get their dream home, the Greens spent over a year untangling the identity issue and disputing with the three credit bureaus to have the false information removed and get new credit scores. At the same time, they were taking a series of credit and budget workshops and financial counseling courses.
"When we started the credit recovery and the identity thief management, he had completed all of his steps and he was able to transition into a purchase agreement where he's now a homeowner," said Neighborhood Services Counselor Kristy Hayes.
"We're very lucky cause really if we didn't try to buy the house, I wouldn't have known any of it.
Today this homeowner says he now has a better handle on his finances and a happier home.
"I wasn't thinking about saving money I wasn't thinking about my future or my kids future, I wasn't thinking about that at the time. I was like we live for today but you have to make sure that everything is in place cause you don't know how long you will be here and I wouldn't want my love ones to be stuck with my burden, so I feel that those programs really did help.
The Greens story ended with a new home, but more importantly, a lesson learned. So what can you do to keep yourself safe?
1. Credit counselors say you should not carry your social security card in your wallet.
2. Have a mechanism in place to offset any spending to keep your credit balanced
3. They also suggest checking your credit at least three times a year to avoid identity theft. This can be done for free at annualcreditreport.com.