To Catch an Identity Thief – How an Identity Thief Named Maria Nelson Became Karen Lodrick – and Then Was Apprehended by the Real Karen Lodrick

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Identity theft is a crime, and criminal identity theft comes in all forms. We have several articles concerning identity theft right here on our identity theft blog pages, and yes, there is now identity theft insurance, often available through your own insurance agency, your bank, or even your local state laws. But this is a new twist: read this true story about how Maria Nelson stole Karen Lodrick’s identity – became Karen Lodrick for several months – and then was apprehended by the real Karen Lodrick!

It all started last November, when Karen Lodrick was advised that someone had stolen the master key to all of the mailboxes where she lived. Shortly thereafter, Lodrick was contacted by Wells Fargo to say that they had noted “suspicious activity” in her account. And that’s when it all started.

It turns out, although Karen didn’t know it at the time, that Maria Nelson had grabbed her mail which contained offers from Wells Fargo which contained brand new credit and debit cards, a statement from Wells Fargo that included her social security number, and yet another envelope from Wells Fargo containing the pin numbers for the credit/debit cards.

And then she proceeded to masquerade as Karen Lodrick for several months.

During that time, Lodrick had been to Wells Fargo not once, but three times to look over the photos of Nelson using her debit cards at Wells Fargo ATMs. In fact, says Lodrik, “”the bank was horrible. I felt they thought I was comical. I kept dealing with different people. Three different times they told me I’d have to come in and ID the (security camera) photo, that I hadn’t done it.”

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But in the end, that may have been what allowed what happened next to happen. Because with the image of Maria Nelson, whose name Lodrick didn’t even yet know, burned into her memory – and in particular the unusual coat that Nelson was wearing in the ATM security camera photos – Lodrick almost instantly recognized Nelson – and especially Nelson’s coat – when she ran into her at a Starbucks, where, ironically, Lodrick was waiting for the Wells Fargo next door to open. You see, that Wells Fargo – a branch to which Lodrick herself had never gone – had called Lodrick to tell her that she had left ‘her’ license there. Of course, it was really Nelson who had left the license which, once it was recovered, had all of Lodrick’s information, but a picture and physical description of Nelson. It even had the official marks and holograms that supposedly keep people from making fake licenses.

According to San Francisco detective Bruce Fairbairn, who was the detective assigned t this case, “You can buy the technology [to add the marks and holograms to a license] on your computer from companies that have legitimate government contracts and then make a lot of money selling the technology to people they must know are not legitimate.”

What happened next – after Lodrick recognized the woman with the unusual coat – was like something out of a crime drama – perhaps ‘Identity Theft Blues’.


Lodrick looked at the woman – who stood at least 5’10 to Lodrick’s 5’2 and who easily had 40 or moure pounds on her – and who had bad teeth – and thought to herself “You’re buying Prada on my dime. Go get your teeth fixed.” Then she quietly called 911 to report what she was up to, and followed Nelson out the door.

The chase was on.

Lodrick followed Nelson not only out the door, but around corners, up hills, and down busy streets. She almost lost Nelson after Nelson turned a corner on a busy street and Lodrick lost sight of her, but then she spotted her in a doorway, and the pursuit began again.

The entire time, she stayed on the phone with 911. at one point she told the 911 operator that she felt a little scared, and the operator told her “If you in any way feel threatened, do not continue the pursuit.”

“I’m ok,” Lodrick responded, and continued her pursuit.

Nelson clearly knew that Lodrick was pursuing her, and tried to grab a cab to get away. Lodrick ran up to the driver and begged him “I have 911 on the line. Please don’t drive away. I think she’s stealing my identity.”

The cab driver obliged, and Nelson jumped out of the cab, screaming at Lodrick “Stop following me, you’re scaring me!”

(Isn’t that rich? But wait for the punch line here!)

Lodrick responded “I’m scared too. Let’s just wait for the police, and we can straighten this out.”

To which Nelson replied…

Wait for it…

“I can’t. I’m on probation.”

Nelson then ran for it, and Lodrick took up the chase again. Along the way, Nelson tossed a wallet into a shopping cart as she ran past it. Lodrick paused just long enough to retreive the wallet before she took up the chase again – and sure enough, it was a wallet full of credit cards, debit cards, and a social security number – all in her name – Karen Lodrick.

On and on the chase continued. Down more streets, around more corners, and even on and off a bus.

Nearly 45 minutes after the chase began, Lodrick nearly lost Nelson again, and running into a darkened parking garage, she begged the 911 operator to get a police officer to her before it was too late. She searched the garage and saw nobody. That’s when the police officer arrived. He too searched the garage, and found Nelson squatted down behind a car, smoking a cigarette.

“You idiot,” Lodrick said to Nelson when they found her, “you should have run.”

The moral of this story is, of course, you can never be too diligent when it comes to protecting your identity. And check review your bank accounts and other financial accounts regularly for unusual activity. And, while most would not advise hot pursuit as a way of dealing with identity theft, be sure to know your options and what recourse is available to you.

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12 thoughts on “To Catch an Identity Thief – How an Identity Thief Named Maria Nelson Became Karen Lodrick – and Then Was Apprehended by the Real Karen Lodrick

  1. i rather doubt, make that strongly doubt, that auntie spam would commit plagiarism, she is a lawyer and a smart lady, well aware of the legal and ethical consequences.

  2. >>Nice job stealing and halfway rewritting a readers digest story…..<< Excuse us? We wrote this story the day that it broke, a year and a half ago. As best as we can tell, the Readers Digest story - of which we weren't aware until you just now mentioned it - was written 4 or more months *after* we wrote our story. If anything, they cribbed from us (although the story was all over the web at the time, so they could have gotten it from anywhere). By the way, that is what Readers Digest *does* - they reprint information from other sources..that's why it's called Readers DIGEST.

  3. Wells Fargo Sucks! And is it so nice to see people hearing about my story and responding by dropping them as their bank. They have not taken on any responsibly for what happened to me and in my eyes they are the one’s at fault. I wish I could expose them even more. They are completely negligent. But unfortunately the media attention I have been getting is not touching this issue. The banks are so protected in this country it is scary, we should all be aware of this and start fighting back for change.

  4. >

    This is EXACTLY why I dropped Wells Fargo as a bank over 25 years ago. I consider them to be the worst of the worst. ANY bank that is using any PART of your Social Security Number is a totally unprofessional bank.

    I can’t wish enough misfortune on the second-rate Wells Fartgo.

    This is tough, I know. But one way to fix this is to move ALL of your 1st-class mail to a P.O. box, and don’t let any financial stuff come into the common mailboxes at your apartment complexes or townhouses. Let the boxes in your lobby fill up with junk mailers, then spill it out onto the lobby floor every thirty days.

    I sympathize greatly with Ms. Lodrick. And mavens of California justice told us this last week that they are returning parole violators to prison at lower and lower rates. Ms. Nelson didn’t commit any bodily injury, so unfortunately for Ms. Lodrick, her “evil twin” is back on the streets.

    Thanks for giving us more of a story than we’d get from the talking heads on TV – knowing how this was done might help more of us protect ourselves from some real creeps, thieves and liars.

    Good luck.

  5. (http) address is followed by a (:) with two slashes (//) followed by (blog) and (.) and (fightingback now) (.) (com) and another (/). So sorry, I don’t know how to post an address link on these comments.

  6. According to Karen’s even more detailed account on the blog, “FIGHTING BACK NOW:”

    “I called and called post offices to no avail. One postman told me those keys were very old that they had, in fact, been stolen many times over and it would cost millions to replace them just for San Francisco alone. So the federal postal service opted out. So basically, our mail isn’t safe in our cities or in our country.”

    Her account shows all the steps she had to take to try to restore her identity and protect it were pretty much countered by this Maria AND Wells Fargo.

    Like Anna, I will continue to deal with my local bank and keep a close eye on all my accounts via Internet access.

  7. This is a great story – I read it at the SF Examiner and another site, so I have a little more information on it than presented here – It appears that Karen has a good lawsuit (1) against the USPS and (2) against Wells Fargo. You can’t tell me that a 5′ 10″ woman could enter a bank and withdraw money from a woman’s account who is 5′ 2″ even if she has ID in that persons name. Don’t you think the bank should jot down height, eye color, hair, etc. and when someone comes into the bank with a fake ID with 8″ difference in height, that perhaps they should give ANY money to this person even IF her ID has the same number?
    Its pretty obvious that the USPS and Wells Fargo are equal partners through their negligence and, in fact, they have aided in merchandising Maria Nelson’s criminal behaviour. If they didn’t make it so easy for Nelson to steal from Lodrick, then maybe Nelson wouldn’t be an identity thief.
    In reality, that’s probably the reason why the legal gave Nelson a slap on the wrist.
    Now its up to Lodrick to “pursue” Wells Fargo and USPS for their gross negligence – don’t get mad at Nelson, get mad at the system that created Nelson’s behavior. From what I read, I learned that Nelson went back into the mailbox at least twice…so obviously, the USPS was negligent in changing the locks on mailboxes. Probably they don’t want people to know that there are few master keys to ALL the mailboxes in any given city!
    That could be one reason why Nelson got probation when she was already on probation.

  8. Good thinking Anna, I use a small local savings and loan based in the town where I live, it’s not immune from “phising” or other fraud attempts but I can always talk directly to the executives who run the show if there is a problem rather than trying to deal with low ranking “managers” who have little or no real authority.

  9. Thank you for the article – we are spurred to remove our remaining accounts from Wells Fargo. I don’t expect that any other competing Big Corporate Bank will be any more receptive to complaints, especially in light of the fact e.g., B of A is escalating risks in consumer banking by allowing accounts to be set up without serious ID. So we and our family and friends, and colleagues are discussing how to move off Corporate Banking, using other local community alternatives that are more people oriented.

  10. Bravo Karen, but I have to ask why in the world, even in San Francisco, did it take 45 minutes for police to come to her aid? And what slap on the wrist will Maria get before she’s out again stealing someone’s identity (since obviously this isn’t the first time she’s been caught)?

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