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Will The Real ‘George Stroumboulis’ Please Stand Up?!

Identity theft is a common term but after it happens to you, it goes from ‘common’ to ‘scary’. I’ve decided to share my story in hopes that you can learn from it and help prevent this super invasive violation of privacy.

1 in 8 Americans are victims of identity fraud every year (I made up this statistic, but it sounds legit). Thank god I am Canadian and this doesn’t apply to me… is what I wish was the case. Not true. I have become a statistic and can sum this up as it being the single worst experience that has ever happened to me to date.

Why share this story with the world?

Consider this my good deed of the day… my public service announcement… my heads up for my friends out there. Although this is all still fresh (and active), it is also something that can be prevented or minimized with the right steps in place. Therefore, I need to be vague in nature, but detailed enough to help you be alert for these assholes out there lurking to profit off your hard work, good reputation and solid credit.

“Your case is the worst case of identity fraud this police department has seen to date” said the detective handling my case. Words you never want to hear (right up there with a doctor telling you “ohhh, I have never seen this before (as he points towards your genital region)”).

How did it happen?

No idea. Next question please! In all honesty, it can be one of several things that we have not determined yet – stolen mortgage application, health insurance data breach, IRS data breach… the Greek economy (don’t they always blame the Greeks for everything?!), anything! The only thing we know is that it was NOT from an online hack on my PC.

Details please… share more details!

The first sign was a fraudulent transaction early this year from my bank. This has happened at least a dozen times to me in my life… the bank reverses the charges and on we go, thinking nothing else. Then, I received a physical notification in my mailbox from the US Post Office stating that I have put a vacation notification on my account and that they will resume the service sometime after that date. RED FLAG, right? Hindsight… fuck yes it was a red flag. In the time until we notified the post office this was a mistake, the criminals were stealing my mail by going in person to the post office and high jacking EVERYTHING. When I approached the post lady a week into this unauthorized mail freeze, she was confused, looked at me and handed the day’s mail and said she would bring everything else on Monday (there was no mail for her to bring on the Monday as they took everything). This was a Friday… and this is how it all unfolded.

Friday, I get a piece of mail from a phone company I do not have my account with for an invoice on “my” account. I call and they said that “I” opened an account in person at a local electronics store in the town where I live. NOT ME. I filed a police report on that Friday and the officer at the station said good luck in finding these people… 1 in a million chance (validated stat by the way).

This is where is gets SCARY!

Fast forward 24 hours from the time I realized my identity has been compromised… I start getting ambushed with hotel, flight and car rental reservations on all my elite status accounts all over the state of California. Fast forward another 24 hours later, someone is arrested at a local airport with my life in their procession trying to rent a car posing as GEORGE STROUMBOULIS – my driver’s license, green card, credit cards, airline status card… everything in his possession! Within 48 hours, someone was arrested and thrown in jail for using my ID. Does this make me feel happy and safe? NO. This means nothing to me. He was just one person in a larger ring.

Shit got real ugly…

After the arrest and up until yesterday, we still receive mail with credit card statements for cards we never opened, medical and hospital bills for procedures we never had, income tax filings on my behalf, attempted mortgage applications in my name, credit bureau account hijacking posing as me, fake phone calls to me posing as the credit card companies… and so much more I care not to share. Overall financial damage from their efforts in the tens of thousands of dollars… and that is what we are aware of.

What you can learn from my horrible experience?

DOUBLE WRAP YOUR SHIT… meaning, protect yourself. All the signs I shared should be red flags. I have placed freezes with all credit bureaus, activated several identity protection services monitoring my life daily and am working backwards to correct the wrong that was done. You have to be your own advocate, otherwise nothing will get done. There are very few places to turn to as a turnkey solution to getting your life back and reinstating your identity (possible business venture… ding ding ding). I was handed a couple pamphlets and a slap on my ass (by the way, the ass slap was more useful than the pamphlets) … and off I went into this bizarre unknown journey.

Where do you go from here?

Stay positive. I have kept a smile on my face during most of this process (because of my wife, baby girl and family – making me realize that they are the only thing that truly matters in this short life). I have learned that this is happening more and more frequently and we are all vulnerable and at the mercy of other’s (insurance, government, banking institutions, etc.) ability to protect your data. I encourage you to look into identity protection services and invest the $10/month to give you that peace of mind (let’s be honest, you spend more money buying a single macchiato frappaccino from a fancy coffee house, you can afford $10/month). And monitor your credit reports like you monitor your Facebook feed… at least one of these actions will actually prove to be a good use of your time.

Final words… this is something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemies. Well, maybe my worst enemy, but not just a general enemy. This has all happened in the last 2 months and will likely take another 6 months for me to clean. Considering I just launched a new business this year and I have already spent 120+ hours on the phone and with the detective trying to clean this up - ya, you can say that pisses me the hell off! But hey, could always be worse.

Stay safe and use me as an example… protect yourself.

And in case the title of this post (Will The Real George Stroumboulis Please Stand Up) reminds you of Eminem’s song, then let me save you the hassle of searching for it… enjoy!

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BouliBrand™ is a boutique marketing + entrepreneurship + communications + branding movement focused on creating vibrant, purposeful and revenue-generating media experiences on a partner-by-partner basis. With strategic partnerships in New York, Toronto, Athens, Los Angeles, New Delhi and Shanghai, we work directly with savvy, driven and optimistic clients wanting to produce fresh platforms of communication and target nouveau markets internationally with their startup businesses and services. BouliBrand is propelled by Georgios (George) Stroumboulis (Γιώργος Στρουμπούλης) - an internationally seasoned marketing professional with tangible business experiences across multiple industries and diverse cultures. To learn more about BouliBrand, Georgios and the stimulating team spearheading the BouliBrand movement forward, get in contact at www.BouliBrand.com, www.Facebook.com/BouliBrand, www.Twitter.com/Stroumboulis (@stroumboulis), www.Instagram.com/Stroumboulis (@stroumboulis), www.LinkedIn.com/in/Stroumboulis, www.YouTube.com/Stroumboulis or www.Pinterest.com/BouliBrand. We all have opinions, thoughts and comments about various topics in our daily lives. Stroumboulis likes to write about his in this Opinion / Blog section. Topics and commentary may include: business, culture, Hellenism, entrepreneurship, start-ups, development, branding, marketing, financing, investment and many others. To suggest new blog ideas, please contact Georgios via his contact page at BouliBrand.com.

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