She bought a car on Facebook, then someone stole her identity
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A Stratford woman is frustrated with how easy it was for someone to use her name to run up thousands of dollars in unpaid bills.
Nicole Copeland went to the ANZ bank in Stratford in September this year to renegotiate her mortgage.
"When I got there, they said I had bad credit and I would have problems doing this. I was surprised as I had no reason for a bad credit rating so asked who the debt was with."
The bank told Nicole she had an unpaid debt of $1849 with a collections company, who Nicole says she has never had any contact with.
"I called the company and they told me it was related to a 2degrees account. I have never in my life had a 2degrees account as I have always been with Vodafone. It was definitely not me, but someone using my identity."
The collections agency gave Nicole the email connected to the account, but she didn't recognise it.
"They also gave me the address used, and the only thing that rang a bell at first was that it was a Tauranga address, which is where my family live, but I didn't recognise the address."
Nicole believes it was her decision to purchase a car through a Facebook buy and sell page that gave the fraudster the opportunity to steal her identity.
"The day after I spoke with the collections agency I was still racking my brain thinking of who might live at that address. Then I remembered it was the street and house number I had purchased a car from."
Nicole says she purchased a Mazda CX-7 last December from a private seller in Tauranga.
"I was looking for a car, and I was visiting family in Tauranga, I looked on the buy and sell pages for there as well as Taranaki. I found a car I liked and went to see it."
She says when she went to test drive the car she gave the seller her driving licence to hold on to as proof of her identity.
"All I can think is she could have photographed my licence or written down all the details while I was out for the drive."
2degrees were able to confirm to Nicole a phone and plan had been purchased online a few days after Nicole had left her licence with the woman for half an hour.
"I can't believe all they needed was my licence number to run up a huge debt, they got the latest iPhone with just a few clicks of a mouse."
While it only took the fraudster a few minutes to commit the crime, it has taken Nicole a lot longer to prove the debt isn't hers.
"I have had to produce utility bills in my name, showing I lived in Stratford not Tauranga at the time the phone was ordered, as well as now, I have had to pay for a new licence to be issued to stop the old details being used again, and I have had to take time off work to talk to the police, the collections agency and to the phone company all to clear my name."
Further investigation by Nicole uncovered a second debt with Spark, totalling $2,136.25.
"Again a phone had been ordered, this time the latest, most expensive Samsung on the market, delivered to the same address in my name, using my licence number."
In total, just under $4000 has been racked up in Nicole's name.
"While I have managed to clear my name, it has taken me numerous hours and work to do so. It seems it is easier to pretend to be someone else, than to prove you are really you!"
Nicole has taken her suspicions to the police, who are working on identifying the fraudster.
She warns others to be careful with their information.
"I thought I was doing the right thing, giving someone my ID while I took their car for a drive to prove I was who I said I was. I never thought someone else would also use my ID to pretend to be me."
- Stratford Press