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There's a lot to be said for the old adage, “If you want something done, do it yourself.”
Just ask Margaret Brockman.
When she learned her identity had been stolen and she wasn’t able to get any help from local or state officials, she took matters into her own hands.
This past May, Brockman, 68, of Lebanon received a phone call from an attorney in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., informing her that someone was using her name and address and claiming that she was in need of legal assistance after loaning a friend $750,000. During the next several weeks, Brockman was inundated with phone calls and letters from attorneys all over the country, and in Canada, either warning her about this schemer or offering to be her legal counsel. On June 18, she found a website - avoidaclaim.com – and was completely horrified to find her name listed as a “confirmed fraud.”
“It’s been quite an experience,” Brockman said.
Thankfully, the only thing the schemer has stolen from her is her name and address, but the situation has caused Brockman a great deal of stress and anxiety.
Not knowing where to turn, Brockman contacted The Lebanon Enterprise in June. After telling her story, the Enterprise contacted the Kentucky’s Office of the Attorney General and gave Shelley Catharine Johnson, deputy communications director, Brockman’s contact information. According to Johnson, a member of the consumer protection staff would be contacting Brockman to give her some assistance.
But, that never happened.
So, Brockman decided to write to every state’s Attorney General to explain who she is and what has happened to her. She also included a copy of the Enterprise’s news article, which was published on July 3.
Since then, a lot has happened.
Brockman has learned that 11 women in Kentucky have been victims of this same scam.
So far, she’s received letters back from 33 attorney generals. Also, on July 9, she received a letter from a representative with the Bureau of Consumer Protection in Harrisburg, Penn., stating that he had forwarded her letter to the Federal Trade Commission in Washington, D.C. On July 30, she received a letter from the Assistant Attorney General in Connecticut and he stated that he forwarded her letter to the FBI’s regional office in New Haven, Conn. On Aug. 13, Brockman received a letter from the Office of Attorney General’s Citizen Services in Florida. They forwarded her letter to the Florida Bar because it’s possible this might have been a “imposter attorney scam.” According to Brockman, three attorneys in Florida are currently being investigated for their possible connection to this scam.
“This whole process has definitely been an eye-opener,” Brockman said.
While she said she’s grateful that so many attorney generals took the time to respond to her letter and help her, she’s been extremely disappointed with the Kentucky Attorney General’s office. She has contacted the Kentucky AG’s Office twice, the attorney generals in Louisiana and Montana forwarded her letter to the Kentucky AG’s office and the Enterprise office also contacted the Kentucky AG’s office on her behalf. Brockman finally received a phone call from a representative with the Kentucky AG’s Office on Wednesday, Aug. 28. She’s not confident that they can or will help her, but at least they finally returned her call.
Brockman said she’s also disappointed in the Marion County Sheriff’s Office for never filing an official report regarding her case. She called the Marion County Sheriff’s Office in June, and a deputy responded to her home and informed her that the secret service might come and question her. But, so far, that hasn’t happened. (The Lebanon Enterprise contacted Marion County Sheriff Jimmy Clements regarding Brockman’s case and asked why an official report was never filed. He was going to check and get back with the Enterprise, but failed to do so by press time.)
However, something that has improved since she took matters into her own hands is her level of anxiety. Initially, she was extremely paranoid and worried. Now, she’s just angry.
“I’m mad now,” Brockman said. “There has to be something done. The other women need help.”
Brockman said she’s learned that it’s important for people to reach out if they think they have been victims of a scam. She was embarrassed, at first, and didn’t tell many of her family members, but she now realizes that it’s nothing to be ashamed of and that she’s not at fault.
“People need to stand up and not be afraid or ashamed and get the word out,” Brockman said. “Question everything that comes in the mail.”
The entire experience has definitely changed Brockman’s perception on things.
“It’s been a struggle,” she said. “There will always be a lack of trust. I don’t look at people the same way I did.”
Brockman said the state of Kentucky needs to become more proactive about helping victims of identity theft. It seems, from her vantage point, that women in this state are being targeted.
“Kentucky is behind,” she said. “It’s an easy place for women to be targeted. But not all of us go around with our heads stuck in a muddy pond.”