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Identity theft is prolific and growing in western Washington

One western Washington woman had her identity stolen four months ago and said around $75,000 was obtained in her name in just two weeks.

SEATTLE — Identity theft is a growing problem in western Washington. One woman, whose identity was stolen four months ago, is still dealing with the fallout. 

“Within the span of two weeks it was $75,000 dollars that was obtained in my name from this woman,” said Michelle Bretz.

The first sign Bretz had that her identity had been stolen was an unknown debit card purchase.

“So we closed down our debit card and took care of that. I looked at my wallet and didn’t notice anything different,” she said.

Next was a withdrawal from her credit union. Then credit cards in the mail from Target, Macy’s, Nordstrom, and more. 

“We found out that our mail had been stopped and a person had asked to have viewing of all the mail,” said Bretz.

The person also took over Bretz's cell phone for more than 12 hours by handing the license to T-Mobile and asking for a new sim card. 

Bretz posted security photos from Costco and her credit union that featured the suspected identity theft to her social media. She said she had people reach out who said, "they think the same person has done the exact same moves to them.”

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She found the answer to how her identity was stolen inside her wallet. Bretz discovered two dummy credit cards with a man's name on them inside.

"I can’t remember his name but it scared me. Someone has been in my wallet,” said Bretz.

She isn’t alone. According to the Federal Trade Commission, Washington ranked No. 2 for the highest number of fraud reports in 2022. The National Council on Identity Theft Protection estimates someone’s identity is stolen every 22 seconds.

“In the City of Seattle identity theft is a prolific crime and we are seeing an increase in that. So we do encourage those in the community to secure their accounts and finances,” said Detective Judinna Gulpan with the Seattle Police Department. 

Michelle said she has secured her accounts and has a permanent hold on her credit, but four months later, she’s said, "almost every single day it's been something. It's awful."

Both the Seattle Police Department and Snohomish County Sheriff's Office (SCSO) are actively investigating. her case. SCSO officials said they might have an ID on the suspect but could not confirm if the photos are the same person. 

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