9 Investigates: Woman fights to recover identity for over decade

by: Scott Wickersham Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Story highlights:

  • Woman said man has been using her Social Security number for past decade.
  • Ariel Giles said she was 11 years old when a man bought her Social Security number for $25.
  • Social Security Administration says to protect yourself now from identity theft.

A local woman said an identity theft nightmare has cost her time and money, and she's still fighting to get her life back on track.
 
She said for the past decade, a man in Winston-Salem has been using her Social Security number to hold a job and open several accounts.

Ariel Giles of Troutman had her life turned upside down two years ago when she applied to nursing school and learned from a background check that someone else was using her Social Security number.

It had been going on since 2001, when she was just 11 years old.

Giles has pages of documents she uncovered on a 35-year-old man named Abel Gonzalez.

While Giles was living out her childhood, she said Gonzalez was using her Social Security number to get a job and open accounts for things like cell phones, utilities, a home security system, even for medical reports.


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“He's using my Social Security number, and he's making like three-times more than I am and getting away with it,” Giles said.
 
Through much of Giles own hard work and persistence Davidson County detectives arrested Gonzalez earlier this month and charged him with felony identity theft.

Investigators told her that Gonzalez had purchased her Social Security number in 2001 from a man on the street.

“He pulled out a piece of paper with a couple Social Security numbers and sold him mine for $25.” -- Ariel Giles

Kathleen Nicolaides is a former federal prosecutor now a criminal justice professor at University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

She said with all the security breaches in the news lately -- now more than ever -- parents need to take action.

“There are 2-year-olds who own mansions in Beverly Hills." -- Kathleen Nicolaides

"Often children and parents don’t keep up with credit agencies to check your credit," Nicolaides said. "Who thinks of doing that when you are 11 years old? But unfortunately, the longer the scheme continues, the more mop up there is.”
 
The Social Security Administration said getting a new number is a lengthy process, so you need to protect yourself now.
 
"I would say put a strong firewall on your computer, put strong passwords on all of your accounts, and most importantly just monitor all your accounts daily,” said Tracy Lynge from the Social Security Administration.
 
Gonzalez is due in court in December on that identity theft charge. He faces eight to 20 months in jail.


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