An Ohio Contractor Rebuilds After Identity Theft

It should have been just another trip to Lowe’s for Don Brown. When his corporate credit card was turned down at the register, the self-employed contractor discovered that his credit card company had frozen the account due to potentially fraudulent activity: Someone had spent $700 at a deli, then tried to take an $8,000 cash advance. Brown had fallen victim to serious identity theft and would spend several months—and lose nearly three weeks of work—trying to clean up the mess.

Fortunately, Brown had purchased identity theft coverage through his insurer just one month earlier. “As an agent you get very nervous for your client and hope your policy is going to respond the right way to a circumstance like that,” said Joe Schauer of the Schauer Group, Brown’s insurance agent. Schauer had no reason to worry: Brown’s provider offered CyberScout’s services.

CyberScout fraud investigator Maria Valenzuela began stomping out fires that popped up daily on more than 16 accounts: a successful $15,000 wire transfer from Brown’s business account; an attempt to cash checks from both business and personal accounts; and credit applications approved by several retailers, including a jewelry store and Home Depot, where the thieves used the entire credit line before returning the purchases for cash.

The stakes grew higher. “I had no idea what was going to happen,” Brown said. “They already took $15,000 and got into my other accounts. It went from something small to something huge.” The funds stolen through the wire transfer were an advance from a client so Brown could purchase materials for a job; without them, Brown was professionally paralyzed. His reputation and company were on the line. If his business suffered, so did his family.

“Don was the perfect victim,” Valenzuela said. “He has a common name, excellent credit and high limits. But Don didn’t ask for this. No one does.”

Valenzuela immediately placed a fraud alert on his file with the three major credit reporting bureaus and initiated credit monitoring. As Brown watched the credit alerts pop up on his computer—including the thieves’ attempt to purchase a car—he and Valenzuela waged a difficult but successful battle. Valenzuela got his cash back, disputed any debt incurred by the thieves and cleared Brown’s credit report, allowing him to get back to business and guard his assets.

“We follow up a lot,” Schauer said, “and every time we reached out to Don Brown, he felt that CyberScout was right there, acting on his behalf and resolving his claim. It was everything we can ask for as an insurance agent—that the people we partner with respond to our clients in the appropriate way.”

“CyberScout protected my children, my family, and my business from identity theft,” Brown said. And Valenzuela’s work didn’t end once the perpetrators were arrested and Brown’s credit cleared. She monitored his credit activity for more than a year, reassuring him that she would always be there to step in again if necessary. “They did a lot of damage,” Brown said. “Without CyberScout, I wouldn’t be sitting here. They would have wiped me out by now.”