Imagine suddenly realizing that your bank account is empty, your credit card is destroyed, and someone else has been out there in the world pretending to be you. This has been a reality for over 33% of the population of the United States alone. Having your identity stolen can be one of the most unnerving experiences that you’ll ever face. But sometimes that experience comes with some extra fear. Here are the 10 Most Popular Identity Theft Cases.
1. Axton Betz-Hamilton
Axton Betz-Hamilton, first discovered she was a victim of identity theft when, at 19 years old, she was asked for a deposit for utilities due to her bad credit. Since her parents had both had their identities stolen in 1993, she suspected that hers had been taken as well.
The sinister truth was discovered in 2013 when Axton’s mother lost her battle with cancer. While cleaning out an old building on their farm, Axton’s father made a puzzling discovery. Hidden inside an old container were 12-year-old credit card statements bearing his daughter’s name, but the card had been issued to his wife. As the pair continued to dig, they discovered more than 20 years of fraud, implicating multiple members of the family for thousands of dollars, all perpetrated by Axton’s own mother, a woman she clearly, truly didn’t know at all.
2. Carolyn Owlett
As a model, pop star and producer, Carolyn Owlett was used to having admirers. But when a stranger messaged her, insisting that they were madly in love after a 17-month-long internet affair, she was truly shocked.
The man, Regis Remakle from Belgium, began to stalk Carolyn, but when confronted, he was genuinely convinced of his story and even had pictures she had allegedly sent him from her private Facebook account.
In reality, Regis had been speaking to a 21-year-old Belgium woman name Krista Erbakella, who had created a fake account posing as Carolyn. Krista hacked photos from Carolyn’s real account and edited others she found online to send to Regis.
Krista even went as far as tricking Carolyn’s band mates into accepting the account and posting pictures of Carolyn’s son on the page to legitimize it.
3. Wendy Brown
When Wendy Brown’s 15-year-old daughter, Jamie, moved from Wisconsin to Nevada to live with her grandmother, Wendy saw it as a chance to finally finish high school, but not as herself, but as her daughter. Using Jamie’s identity, she enrolled at the Ashwaubenon High School. Though she looked older than the other students, she mimicked their demeanor and avoided suspicion. Wendy joined a cheerleading squad, and even attended a pool party at the coach’s house. But when Jamie stopped attending classes, a truancy officer contacted the school the real Jamie was attending and discovered she had never actually returned home.
Wendy was discovered to be in jail for an unrelated fraud case and after being diagnosed with several mental illnesses, including bipolar disorder, she was committed to a mental health institution.
4. Helen Anderson
Helen Anderson, a retired nurse, had an ordinary life when she left to visit her ill daughter, but she returned to a nightmare.
Samantha, Helen’s niece, was left to house sit alone, but when Helen came home, Samantha’s friend, Alice Lipsky, was there. Naturally, Helen asked the friend to leave, however, Alice was an expert identity thief and by using stolen mail and receipts, she reopened all of Helen’s closed accounts and credit cards.
She then signed Helen up for a credit monitoring service and changed all of her passwords, effectively locking Helen out of all the past and current accounts. By the time Alice was ultimately caught, she’d made it easier to prove she was Helen than it was for the real Helen to prove her own identity, creating a huge mess for the poor retired woman.
5. Brittany Ossenfort
When Brittany moved in with her new roommate, a transgendered woman named Michelle, whom she met through a mutual friend, everything seemed fine at first.
Even as Michelle started dressing like Brittany, dying and styling her hair the same and got a matching hand tattoo, the two girls remained close friends.
A year later, Brittany received a phone call requesting that she come bail herself out of jail. Michelle had stolen Brittany’s identity and had given it to police when she was arrested for prostitution.
Luckily, Michelle’s fingerprints were in the system from back when she was known as Richard Phillips. In court, even with forensic evidence against her, Michelle maintained her claim that she was Brittany, saying she had no idea why her prints would be a match to Richard’s.
6. Elaine Parent
In 1990, the Chameleon Killer, Elaine Parent, struck for the first time, taking the life of her roommate, 34-year-old Beverly McGowen, and taking her identity. This began a 12-year-long manhunt across multiple countries, with Parent evading authorities at every turn.
Throughout this ordeal, Parent became known as America’s most-wanted woman as she seduced single women, tricked them into giving their Social insurance numbers to her, as well as credit cards, before ending them and assuming their identities.
When she wasn’t using information from real victims, she would search through cemeteries for people’s names and birthdates that she could use. In 2002, the Parent was finally tracked down in Florida.
7. Sarah Allman
When flames tore apart Stevie Allman’s home in Oakland, California, firefighters arrived on the scene to find neighbors pulling the 52-year-old homeowner from the blaze.
Stevie, a known anti-drug crusader, claimed the arson was the revenge of local drug dealers. She became an icon, the community helped pay for her medical bills, and the state governor offered a reward for the arrest of the arsonists.
Then it was discovered that Sara, Stevie’s younger sister, who also lived in the home, had vanished without a trace. As the police investigated, they found that Sara had stolen from Stevie multiple times and had even forged Stevie’s signature to cash an inheritance check.
It turns out that Stevie was actually Sara and admitted to ending her sister to take her identity, hiding the evidence in the fire that she caused.
8. Gerald Barnbaum
After losing his pharmaceutical license for committing Medicaid fraud in Chicago in 1971, Gerald decided to turn to identity theft to become a doctor.
Over the next 25 years, Gerald stole multiple identities of established physicians and legally practiced medicine, both in his community and abroad on medical missions.
He contributed to the death of undiagnosed Type-1 diabetic, John McKensey, by giving him the wrong medication and was sent to prison.
Upon release, he returned to stealing identities and illegally practice medicine. At one point, Gerald managed to act as a physician to several FBI agents, as well as Federal Reserve bank officials without being discovered. He was caught again in 2000 after escaping and passed away in prison in 2018, one year before he was expected to be released on parole.
9. Nicole McCabe
When Australian-born Nicole McCabe was six months pregnant and living in Israel, she was stunned when she heard on the radio that she was wanted for a crime.
Nicole and two other Australian citizens were three of the 26 people implicated for a serious crime that was committed by a man from Dubai. Following this, Nicole and the other victims were placed on INTERPOL’s most-wanted list.
Nicole approached the Australian Embassy in Israel, but received minimal help. The most concerning part of the story, however, is that she never lost her physical passport.
They were able to steal her information from an online government database and make a fake passport that was convincing enough to make her the prime suspect of the crime.
10. Frederic Bourdin
Potentially one of the most notorious serial impostors to ever live, Frederic also earned himself the nickname of The Chameleon for stealing the identities of around 500 people across the world throughout his lifetime, including those of several missing teenagers.
In 1997, he learned about Nicholas Barclay who disappeared from San Antonio, Texas. Frederick decided to fly to Texas from his home in France and convince Nicholas’s parents that he was their missing son. His story was that his eye color was changed by French abductors who were also responsible for his accent.
Nicholas’s parents believed him and he went on to live with them for several months before a private investigator exposed him due to his ears being a different shape than Nicholas’s.