A lifelong scam
Apr 1, 2021
Season 4 | Episode 1

A lifelong scam

Axton Betz-Hamilton spent 20 years trying to track down an identity thief that wreaked havoc on her family, only to discover the truth was uglier than she'd imagined.

When Axton Betz-Hamilton applied for a credit card for the first time, in college, she had a credit score of 380.

“I remember thinking at the time, well, if 100 is perfect — you know, because 100 on the paper is perfect? Well, 380 must be almost four times as perfect. Right?” she said. Nope. “My credit score was in the second percentile of all credit scores in the nation.”

The first thing she did was call her mom, an accountant. She had grim news: The scammer who had plagued her family for years had gotten to her too, running up thousands of dollars in bogus charges.

Betz-Hamilton had just left home, but there was no escape.

The identity theft started when Betz-Hamilton was 11, after her grandpa died. Mail began disappearing from the family’s rural Indiana mailbox. Letters, bills, even magazines. They got a P.O. box, but nothing seemed to help.

Her parents had good jobs, but they ended up deep in debt. This was in the ’90s, before most people could pay their bills online. The family couldn’t figure out who they even owed money to. Their credit scores tanked. Their utilities started being shut off.

Without mail, and later without power, they were in the dark. The family became increasingly isolated — they didn’t know who they could trust in their small town. As a teen, Betz-Hamilton remembers scaring a plumber off the property with a butcher knife.

That upbringing, and the realization that she’d been involved for years without knowing it, pushed Betz-Hamilton to study identity theft in college. The first episode of our new season is about her 20-year journey to find the culprit, who had been right under her nose the whole time.

“I remember telling Dad, ‘Someday, I’m going to find the person responsible for this, and I’m going to hold them accountable, and they won’t be able to do this to us anymore,” she said.

If you liked this episode, share it with friends who shred their documents.

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Megan Detrie Senior Producer
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