This blog series is dedicated to sharing real-world stories of the most serious cases of stolen identities – and just how devastating these crimes can be on organizations, individuals, and families. This week’s recap shows how a woman assumed the identity of a dead child for nearly three decades.
About the ID Theft Victim
Tina Marie Brandon was a 2-year-old resident of Texas when she tragically passed away on New Year’s Day 1960. According to obituary records, her death was caused by an accident involving a moving sidewalk at Dallas Love Field airport.
How the Identity Theft Occurred
It wasn’t until 30 years later that Brandon’s Personally Identifiable Information (PII) would be compromised. In 1990, the then 39-year-old identity thief, Deborah Lester, falsified a birth certificate in Brandon’s name. Lester was able to get a Social Security number with the phony certificate. SSNs are the “golden ticket” for identity thieves since they are tied to other identity documents, credit, financial accounts, government benefits, and more.
As stated in a news article, for the next 28 years, Lester committed identity fraud. According to an arrest affidavit, she married once as Deborah Lester and once as Tina Marie Brandon (becoming Tina Marie Toch). She created multiple businesses and opened bank accounts under both names, and she even obtained Colorado IDs and driver licenses.
In a September 2018 meeting with her financial advisor, Lester revealed that she was being investigated by the U.S. State Department. She divulged the details of the identity fraud she had committed and was taken into custody by Colorado Springs Police on October 31, 2018.
Wanted Dead or Alive: Your PII
This real case of identity theft combines two of the most nefarious ways that fraudsters commit their crimes – Ghosting and Child Identity Theft. According to the IRS, 2.5 million deceased individuals have their identity used for criminal activity annually. And, in 2017, more than 1 million children were victims of identity theft. That number is expected to rise in 2018 and beyond.
While it’s next to impossible to protect the PII of a deceased loved one, protecting the identity of your children is critical to ensure their future financial health and ability to obtain credit. Learn more about how you can get the best identity theft protection for yourself and your family, or get started today with a 30-day Free Trial.