Share “ Taking Stock: Stolen wallet leads to a...”

Taking Stock: Stolen wallet leads to a huge headache

Malcolm Berko: Follow six steps to prevent enormous future angst and heartache if you have your identity or wallet stolen.
By Malcolm Berko Published: February 19, 2012

Dear Mr. Berko: My wallet was stolen a year ago, and most folks have no idea what a job it has been to get my life back in order.

The credit agencies have me listed as a bum, even though I pay all my real bills, and I still get calls from vendors who accepted my stolen cards. I now have four driving permits in four different states, and I have a speeding ticket in New Jersey in my name, although I've never even been there.

My Social Security number was hijacked to open checking accounts at two banks. Two cellphone accounts were opened in my name, as were two electric utility accounts. The banks, the utilities, the vendors, etc., do not believe me and view my explanation as a convenient ruse.

So far, this terrible fever dream has caused me to spend more than $4,200 in legal fees. Not a week goes by that I don't get a phone call from someone who insists that I owe money. Is there anything you can recommend that I do to stop this continuing problem from consuming me? My wife thinks we should get a divorce to clear this problem from our lives.

DD, Port Charlotte, Fla.

Dear DD: During the past few years, I've heard from several readers who suffered identical and even worse consequences. A soon-to-be-married couple canceled their wedding plans (perhaps their wedding, too) because of the financial conflict this caused. But for you, it's too late to close the barn gate.

So I spoke with my daughter, Hilary, who has been practicing law for 18 years, and she advised you to get a new attorney, pronto. Then ask your insurance agent if the legal costs you already incurred and those to be spent are covered under a home insurance policy. Next, ask your accountant if the legal costs not covered by your homeowner's policy are deductible from your gross income.

This is an “Alice in Wonderland” nightmare, and your entire world is upside down in a few weeks. Hilary said that bad things can easily happen to good people who fail to take six simple, precautionary measures she lists below. But she also recommends that you stay married because it's a lot less expensive than a divorce.

Continue reading this story on the...