(WSVN) - We have the story of a victim of identity theft. She had five credit cards opened in her name. The woman ran up thousands in charges, and the victim just didn’t know what to do. It’s a case for Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

Thank goodness Sharon Levine can focus on real estate in the daytime.

Sharon Levine, identity theft victim: “I love to deal with the buyers, show them their dream home.”

But for the past two years, Sharon has had to come home to deal with her nightmare.

Sharon Levine: “I was afraid to go to the mailbox. Another charge, another this.”

Sharon is the victim of identity theft, specifically a woman who has opened one account after another in Sharon’s name.

Sharon Levine: “Best Buy, Macy’s, Kohl’s and J.C. Penney.”

Not just opened the accounts — rang up charges, with the bills pouring into Sharon’s mailbox.

Sharon Levine: “About $20,000.”

It took Sharon months to get the cards closed, convince investigators she didn’t charge anything and get the $20,000 in charges wiped out.

Sharon Levine: “Calvin Klein dresses and Michael Kors.”

And then the woman started using Sharon’s Dillard’s card, even though it was still in her purse.

Sharon Levine: “The first charge happened to have been $5,800, then she charged about $2,600, and then she opened up another card and charged $1,300.”

Sharon reported it.

Sharon Levine: “‘Please, do not let any new card be established.’ Well, she opened up another card.”

Now Sharon’s credit is a mess, and she owes Dillard’s over $9,000 for charges in stores from Georgia and Florida.

Sharon Levine: “I have never been in Georgia. I have never been in Tallahassee.”

Where Sharon is, is trying to stop a crook — a crook the cops can’t catch.

Sharon Levine: “The Tallahassee police said she’s very good. She’s very good.”

She’s very good, and she’s leaving Sharon very frustrated.

Sharon Levine: “I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do.”

Well, Howard, is Sharon going to have to keep fighting off identity thieves for the rest of her life?

Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “Possibly, but don’t wait for the crooks to attack you. Go on the offensive to protect yourself. First, contact the police. They can’t do much, but that gives you a report to show you are a victim. Then contact the federal government, the credit bureaus and your credit card companies to put a red flag on your accounts so a merchant or lender will get in touch with you before allowing a loan, a purchase or a new credit card. It’s a lot of work for you, but it can save you a lot of headaches.”

We contacted Dillard’s to try to get the $9,000-plus the had thief charged taken care of.

Dillard’s card is issued by Wells Fargo. Their investigation showed a caller identified as “Sharon Levine” requested to add a woman who calls herself Cassondra Jones as an authorized user.

The caller had Sharon’s personal information, including her Social Security number and date of birth.

Clearly, it was not Sharon authorizing the crook to use her card, and the $9,232.14 in charges were wiped out.

Sharon Levine: “Since then, she has tried to open Capital One, American Express and PayPal.”

And the thief keeps targeting Sharon.

Sharon Levine: “Somebody tried to buy a Volkswagen under my name.”

The crook is trying, while Sharon is trying to stop her.

Sharon Levine: “I have red-flagged everybody. I told God to red-flag my life.”

When all else fails, Sharon, you just have to laugh.

But those red flags on her accounts did stop the crook.

There are many websites to protect yourself from identity thieves or ways to protect yourself after they hit you.

Check out the links below before you get hit to block the thieves. And remember, some of those federal websites are shut down because of the government shutdown, but they will reopen eventually.

A thieving crook used a hook to trap you? Ready to identify them? Red-flag us. We don’t want any credit. We just want you to be happy.

First Report to Government Agency

Federal Trade Commission

Identity Theft Resource Center

Florida Attorney General

Email: helpmehoward@wsvn.com
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN

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