This new year, many women decided to reinvent themselves - as me.
I was the victim of "high-level identity theft."
I came home from the holidays to find 12 new credit cards opened in my name, none by me. Somebody had gotten my Social Security number, birth date, and address.
I freaked. I called my mom, and she freaked. Then I looked online and learned I could resolve the fraud in, oh, about 100 easy steps.
The first was to file a police report. Simply being inside the police precinct made me feel guilty. I felt guilty for being a boring case. I felt guilty for making paperwork. I felt guilty that I had no leads.
If I'd waited any longer, I'd have made a false confession.
Outside of the detective's office was a wall of wanted posters with illustrations and photos of criminals of every sort, all in my neighborhood. It was like an inspiration board for nightmares.
The detective didn't share my shock about identity theft. "Everyone's social has been compromised at some point. It's just bad luck your number came up."
Go figure. I finally have the right numbers, and somebody else gets rich.
Next, I set about calling the credit bureaus and customer service lines for all the fraudulent accounts. Six hours later, I had a better understanding of what happened.
In mid-December, multiple women in several states used my identity to do some holiday shopping - nearly $10,000. They would open a credit card at a store and max it out the same day. It didn't always work. Some mistakes that foiled these criminal masterminds were: misspelling my name, getting my gender wrong, or listing "Serritella" as my first name and "Francesca" as my last.
Confusing ethnic name for the win!
A fraud representative informed me that one thief, after being initially denied, had called the company to "verify" her identity.
I mean, my identity.
"That one had cojones," the representative said.
For some reason it bothers me that it was women who did this. It's sexist, but when I think of a criminal, I envision a man, or I imagine a woman destroying a man's property, justifiably so - Carrie Underwood-and-her-Louisville-Slugger type stuff. Identity theft is a violation of the Girl Code.
Hook up with my ex-boyfriend, but leave my credit score alone.
And yet, woman-on-woman crime is so predictable. I try not to be catty, but when I imagine some chick using my pristine credit to buy her stupid stuff from Old Navy, Home Goods, Victoria's Secret, Nordstrom . . . .
She's probably not even cute!
Last year, my credit-card information was stolen and used at a grocery store. That's sympathetic. It was like Jean Valjean ripped off my credit to buy a loaf of bread.
These thefts are non-essential. I mean, Home Goods?
I'm glad my identity was stolen so that you could buy a decorative pillow.
Karma says, if you commit fraud to buy a scented candle, you'll burn your house down with it.
Recently, the detective e-mailed me a surveillance photo of one of the women using my identity. I didn't recognize her. I felt bad I couldn't help the investigation, but I'm relieved that I don't have con-women for friends.
The woman was very voluptuous. The security camera was nearly looking down her shirt. Believe me, no one could mistake her for me.
No wonder she spent $1,000 at Victoria's Secret.
Even in the grainy photo, I could tell that she was wearing false lashes. I didn't like that. False lashes are trying too hard. They never look real.
Not that this would concern an identity thief.
But please, if you're going to impersonate me, try and look your best.
Look for Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella's latest collection, "Meet Me at Emotional Baggage Claim."