What do you do when your identity is stolen? - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

What do you do when your identity is stolen?

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Samantha Leitner has had her identity stolen three different times Samantha Leitner has had her identity stolen three different times
COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) -

The personal information of millions of South Carolinians could be in the hands of an international hacker. You don't know if your information has been compromised, but what happens if it actually gets used?

Identity theft is more common than you may think. Just ask Samantha Leitner.

Leitner has spent years trying to clear her name after thieves repeatedly stole her identity.

"They tried to purchase a new car in my name," said Leitner. "It took about three years to get it off my credit report."

That was the first time. It happened again seven years later.

"We actually took out a home equity line of credit on our home and someone somehow got our information from that info -- opened up credit cards in both my husband and my name," said Leitner.

The third time was a few months ago.

"When I moved earlier this year a bag of financial information went missing," said Leitner. "I thought I'm sure I shredded that and apparently I didn't. They had a copy of our checks, had a copy of our banking information and Lord knows what else they had a hold of."

Now Leitner gets calls three or four times a week from creditors for accounts she never opened. She also has a hard time getting credit.

"It dramatically drops your credit score, so it makes it very hard to do anything," said Leitner.

It took about a week for Leitner to set up fraud alerts and a security freeze but years to try to erase the damage.

"I'm monitoring my checking accounts. I changed all my cards just so I wouldn't have the same numbers being used out there that might possibly have been compromised," said Leitner.

At a press conference on Monday, Gov. Nikki Haley stressed the 3.6 million people who had their Social Security numbers hacked at the state Revenue Department have until the end January to sign up for credit monitoring.

"If you have not called, you don't have to call today. You don't have to call tomorrow. You have until the end of January of 2013 to call and it will be retroactive," said Haley.

But Leitner says you can't afford to wait when thieves get ahold of your personal information.

"Stop it right then," said Leitner. "Don't say, 'Oh, I'll give it a couple days and see.' No, because they've had a hay day with your account. They've taken you for several hundred or thousands of dollars."

If your identity gets stolen, it's a long, frustrating process to get it back. Experts say you need to constantly monitor your bank records with a fine toothed-comb. If anything looks suspicious, call your bank immediately and the credit bureaus. If someone has stolen money or made unwanted purchases on your behalf, you need to file a police report. Start the paper trail so you can work with the creditors and lenders to clear up your account. You can even file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission if someone steals your identity.

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