I hear stories so often nowadays of people living someone else's life. I remember the first time I heard of such a thing. I was watching Friends in the mid-90s. “The One with the Fake Monica.” It was all very funny and light-hearted as the high-strung character, Monica, tried to get into the mind of a woman who stole her identity and was living a “better version” of her life: one filled with self-expression and tap dancing classes. All I saw was self-loathing and cowardice.

Trying to understand identity theft. Whould would you want to live someone else's life?

Nate says I'm naive to feel so appalled and confused about it all, but that's what I felt when it happened to me. Why would anybody want to live someone else's life? He says they're lazy criminals with no motivation, no drive.

As such a driven person myself, that's what truly baffles me.

I wonder what happened to these people to make them give up on themselves. To make them stop seeing the faces behind the humanity that they're stealing. To make them not care or maybe not even understand that identity theft is not a victimless crime. This is someone else's life you're messing with.

my baby

This is my baby, who waits not-so-patiently while I follow up with creditors and banks to fix the mess that identity theft has unleashed on me.

my dog

This is my dog, wearing a sweater Nate and I bought with our own money that we worked hard for. Because our campsite was cold. Because we care. Because we're capable of compassion and empathy, unlike the person who decided to pick their favorite bits and pieces of my life. My credit card statement said that our thief went shopping at the same chain where I bought this sweater. I wonder if they got one for themselves. If they tried it on, modeled it in the mirror and felt the discomfort of a too-big life settling on unworthy shoulders.

I wonder if they were the same person who hacked my Facebook account, email and website. Was it vindictive? Probably not. Most identity thieves don't take all of someone else's life; they pick and choose the bits that work best for them. The high-yield accounts, the social security numbers, the names and identities that shield their own records from entanglements like sex offender registries and court records. There's a lot more to it, now, than money. These people can create a trail and stick it on someone else, and then go pick a new person. Go mess up someone else's life once again.

my child in an orange beanie

This is my child. He worries about things like lost toys and nap time. I worry about the potential for someone to steal his information and riddle his background with false data and unsecured loans. Will we encounter stumbling blocks on our way to college? Will I be able to protect his name as I see him off into adulthood?

Our family has been lucky to minimize the effects of identity theft on our lives, largely because instead of trying to live someone else's life we proactively take control of our own. I have friends and family members and readers who have heard our story of identity theft and asked what they can do to keep it from happening to them. The naive side of me wants to say that we're the exception. But you stop being so naive once you look at the facts. 11.6 million Americans were victims last year. Me, my friends, my family. People you and I know.

Lifelock

We've now partnered with a high-tech service called LifeLock to help keep an eye on our accounts, because it is truly too much for one person to handle. And I have a life to live! Their comprehensive Ultimate protection plan that we use monitors our bank accounts, monitors new bank and credit applications for our information, gives us unlimited credit score monitoring, verifies address changes on our behalf, surveys websites and file-sharing networks for our information, removes our name from pre-approved credit card offer lists, monitors payday loans and scans court records and sex offender registries for our information. Our readers can use code LifeLockSecure to get 10% off when they sign up for LifeLock protection.

Have you been the victim of identity theft? Would you know if someone was using your data?
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