Author Archives: Sarah Andre
Oh yeah. It happened to me a few months ago. It’s horrific, it’s ongoing and the system is set up to keep the thief’s identity a secret from you. No joke. If you’re looking for a plot, feel free to take these personal details of my life.
Confession #1: I never saw the Melissa McCarthy/Jason Bateman movie about identity theft. I can’t imagine how they made this life-altering, helpless violation humorous.
Confession #2: I’m one of those people who thought it’d never happen to me, so I’ve carelessly and freely given out personal information. I am Mrs. Casual about leaving my purse unzipped on my shoulder or plopping it in a shopping cart as I turn my back and bag tomatoes. In the game of chance, this was bound to finally happen.
In this instance I’d stuck the open purse on the hook of a Tallahassee hotel trolley as my husband and I loaded suitcases from the room onto the cart. I never saw one hotel occupant or employee pass our room as we loaded that cart. No one shared an elevator down to the lobby. When I hoisted my purse again at the car I instantly knew, by the much lighter weight, that my wallet was gone. To this day I do not know how it was accomplished. But my debit card was used for gas half an hour later (while I was still tearing through suitcases and taking the room apart looking for the wallet.) Why did I not instantly assume it was stolen? Because again: that would never happen to me!
Confession #3: I didn’t know the meaning of real identity theft. Like most of us, I’ve had a credit card ‘used’ at a store in another state/country and the bank called asking if I was presently at that store. “No, I’m not,” I answered, outraged, “and the card is still in my possession.” That’s what I thought of as “identity theft.” And in my defense, you hear the term so often it loses it’s terrifying impact. Huge companies are inundated with breaches in their cyber security and the nightly news helpfully keeps us in a constant state of fear that our “personal information” has probably just been stolen.
Confession #3: After immediately canceling credit cards (right there in the hotel parking lot at 6am) I figured that’s all I needed to do. It never occurred to me any other harm could come from the theft. Oh, I was annoyed they’d gotten some Christmas gift cards I hadn’t gotten around to using. And now I was without my Sam’s card, AAA, driver’s license, car and health insurance cards…all inconveniences. But if they’d planned on shopping with my AX and 2 Visas they were in for quite a surprise! They had my debit card but not my PIN. Shrug. We got in the car and drove off. In hindsight, that was the biggest mistake we made. Driving away from the scene of a crime and not calling the Tallahassee police and filing a report. Never occurred to us because we thought we’d handled it.
Confession #4: I had no idea that once a thief has access to the information on your driver’s license, getting your social security number is a snap. Did they con a government official or hack into the social security system? I’m not stupid enough to carry that precious number out in public, and providing your social security is the only way you can apply for credit cards.
Confession #5: Because of the combined idiotic naiveté listed above, I was utterly shocked when Capitol One called me a few weeks later asking if I’d applied for their credit card.
The second I was off the phone my husband enrolled me in one of the 3 Credit Reporting Agencies (Equifax, TransUnion and Experain.) They have a service very similar to LifeLock. The customer rep immediately walked me through how to ‘lock down’ my social security number. If anyone were to use it from that moment forward it sends a red flag to the company to call me and ask if I just applied for a credit card.
Confession #6: I had no idea I could sign up for this service any day of the week, without an emergency like a stolen wallet. Small fee ($99) for 6 months of a watchdog service. You can even order them to alert you if your credit card balance increases by–you give them the $ range. Example: $200 increase triggers an email/text alert. (Happy Christmas shopping.)
Conveniently the 3 companies ‘talk’ to each other, so you pay one, but get information from all 3 immediately. There’s a link that lets you see all 3 Reporting Agencies lists of credit cards you have taken out in the last 3 years. (None, btw. Mine should have been a blank page.)
And this is what I saw: all within one day my social security and name had applied for cc’s to Target, Best Buy, Loews, Home Depot, Capitol One, Citibank, Wells Fargo, Northern Tool, T-Mobile and H.H. Gregg.
Conveniently, this link also provides toll-free numbers for each of these companies. Inconveniently, these numbers are not the Fraud Department. Fraud Dept numbers are also not listed on any of the websites.
Confession #7: I thought a 2-3 minute call per company would clear up each case. Uh…no. I think my fastest call to shut a card down was 20 minutes. Average was more like 40 minutes. Why? Because I’d get in the mechanical loop of ‘if I want ___ dept, please press one now.’ None featured a magical number to get the Fraud Dept. Inevitably I chose Customer Service. Spilled my sorry tale. Most put me on hold because they did not know what to do or say! Eventually they provided a different toll-free number. Sometimes it was right, sometimes I would be transferred several times before reaching the Fraud Dept. Sometimes, I would get disconnected and have to start over. On average I’d tell my sorry tale to 3 company representatives before I heard, “I can help you with that.”
Confession #8: When a Fraud Dept tells you they have nothing listed under your ss#, but the Credit Reporting Agencies have that company listed, do NOT assume the Credit Agencies are wrong. T-Mobile told me nothing showed up and reiterated this quite sharply when I argued that they were listed as a company being defrauded by someone using my name, address and ss#. What could I do but thank her and hang up?
It was the last of the companies I had to call that very long afternoon, and in exhaustion and frustration I gave up. But it preyed on me that someone was wrong…the company or credit agency. I called T-Mobile a week later and explained to another Fraud rep that I’d spoken to his colleague and she’d checked my ss# and seen nothing. Could he please check again? After looking up the ss# he said with resignation and dread: “Oh they got you all right. They got you good.” 4 T-Mobile phones and 4 T-Mobile phone numbers.
In the end the thief or thieves got away with $2,000 of goods by forging a check at Sam’s (who does not return canceled checks to your bank. I have to think the thieves knew that.) Over $2,000 at Home Depot because they applied for instant credit AT the checkout register. $47 worth of gas on my debit card (while I was still searching the hotel for the wallet.) No PIN needed if you’re using it as a cc. God knows how much T-Mobile ate. $2600 at H.H. Gregg, a store I’d never even heard of and they, like T-Mobile, do not show my ss# in their system still. But it’s listed on all 3 Agencies sites.
Confession #9: I figured the companies being defrauded and eating these charges would pony up information on the thief. Nope. Once in awhile the rep would slip up and give me an area code on the application. One actually felt sorry for me and told me the purchases occurred at 2 stores in Miami. 4 T-Mobile Welcome letters finally showed up in the mail with 4 phone numbers and they were Miami area codes. ALL companies ask if I’d called the Tallahassee police and opened a case file so they could add their information about the thieves. Oops. (We tried to report it weeks later and it fell on deaf ears.)
Confession #10: The easiest, most logical step to stop this was impossible. I called the Texas DPS to ask them to flag or cancel my license. She apologized and said there was no way to do that. There was actually nothing they could do to alert any companies or other states’ police departments that my license was being used for nefarious purposes. Her exact words were: “I’m sorry, you’ll just have to wait until the license expires.”
So if you are looking for a plot I give full permission to use my experience. You’ll need a character who has a specific world view in the beginning, (i.e., naïve-‘nothing like this will ever happen to ME’) then goes through the wringer and comes out at the end of the story an altered person. The theft occurred moving from Houston to southwest FL. I defy you to find my new hometown on any media site. Because any new personal information is now locked up, like my ss#. And my trust in my fellow man.
Today we welcome back multi-published author, Stacy Green. And since I’m in the chaotic stage of unpacking hundreds of boxes after moving from Houston to FL last week, I asked Stacy to come up with something intriguing that captures the tone of her newest release: ALL GOOD DEEDS. Take it away, Stacy!
This question planted the seed for my newest character Lucy Kendall, a former CPS worker turned private investigator and vigilante killer of sex offenders.
The criminal mind is a fascinating place and oftentimes a mystery for investigators. Bundy, Gacy, Lucas–the worst of the worst–are almost easy to understand. They just aren’t wired right. Add a dose of lousy nurturing, and it’s a recipe for disaster.
But what about the outliers? The people who are good by society’s standards and then one day just snap? Did they have it in them all along? Do we all possess that shadow side that lurks, waiting for something to turn us bad?
I think any one of us are capable of killing someone–or at least doing serious bodily injury–if the circumstances are right.
Some of these are pretty straightforward: someone hurting our kid, our pets, our career. People have snapped over less.
But what about something that isn’t personal? Something that doesn’t directly affect you but is a sore on society? What would make you risk your freedom, and how would you do it?
Lucy Kendall snaps when a child killer walks free. But she doesn’t lash out in a clumsy, unorganized way. She thinks things through, figuring out the best method to do her work AND keep herself out of jail. And even as she figures out the most efficient way for her to end someone’s life, she doesn’t believe she’s a killer.
Her targets are men who have destroyed kids lives and will do it again. Lucy believes with her whole heart sex offenders can’t be cured, and her actions take care of a problem the justice system and society simply can’t–or won’t.
I believe that most if not all of us possess what Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung called the Shadow Side.
The shadow exists as part of the unconscious mind and is composed of repressed ideas, weaknesses, desires, instincts and shortcomings…These latent dispositions are present in all of us, Jung believed, although people sometimes deny this element of their own psyche and instead project it onto others. SOURCE
This theory was a major influence on developing Lucy Kendall. Although there is tragedy in her past, she is a normal member of society. But her shadow side has seeped through her veneer until it now rules her choices and ultimately, her life.
She’ll have to come to terms with being a killer, her real motives, and answer the ultimate question: now that she has fully engaged her shadow side, is she even capable of not killing?
Does her choice of victim make her exempt? If she’s caught, is she a hero or a villain?
Or does her methodology make her just as evil as the famous serial killers we have such a fascination with?
I don’t have the answers to those questions, but I do know that as I get older, I realize more and more that life is not black and white. Our systems are flawed and need changing, but whether or not there are any good alternatives remains to be seen.
I think any one of us could become a Lucy Kendall if the circumstances are right, and I will further argue that instead of moral code, it’s fear of punishment that keeps most of society in check. Score one for the penal system.
What about you, thriller readers and writers? Is life black and white? Should there be exemptions? And what would it take for you to administer Lucy Kendall Justice? Comment for a chance to win a copy of my new release, ALL GOOD DEEDS!
Lucy Kendall lived her life in a strange mixture of carefully calculated moves and impulse decisions. Cracking the skull of the man who molested her sister and attacking her was impulse. Spending half her teenage years drinking and acting out were calculated cries for attention from her narcissistic mother followed by impulsive rages at her lack of concern.
The decade spent working in Child Protective Services before becoming a private investigator taught her two truths. One, CPS failed miserably in protecting children. Two, Lucy was more than willing to do it for them, meting out her brand of dark justice in spite of her own fear of death. But Lucy’s crusade is compromised when a self-proclaimed sociopath offers to help—and leaves her no choice but to accept it.
When eight-year old Kailey Richardson is abducted, it sets off a chain of events linked to Justin Beckett, a suspect in a life-changing case in Lucy’s past. The path she’s chosen since dealing with Beckett has been dark and terrifying—but she has no idea just how deep she will go or where the twisted road will take her.
She’s about to find out.
About the Author
Born in Indiana and raised in Iowa, Stacy Green earned degrees in journalism and sociology from Drake University. After a successful advertising career, Stacy became a proud stay-at-home mom to her miracle child. Now a full-time author, Stacy juggles her time between her demanding characters and supportive family. She loves reading, cooking, and the occasional gardening excursion. Stacy lives in Marion, Iowa with her husband Rob, their daughter Grace, and the family’s three obnoxious but lovable canine children.
Thanks for being our guest today, Stacy! You raise some interesting points and questions. Readers: For more information on Stacy Green here are her links.
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Winner Announcement: And the winner of ONCE UPON A CHRISTMAS KISS by Manda Collins is Patti Straight. Congratulations Patti! Please use our contact page to claim your prize and let us know if you prefer an e-book or print on release day. Please include your email and snail mail addy (if you want print).
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