FOX 8 Defenders: Identity theft victim gets fraudulent loan bills

New Orleans, La. - Somebody stole a New Orleans woman's identity and applied for a loan hundreds of miles away, in Florida. After months of trying to get the fraud claim resolved on her own and not getting results, she turned to the FOX 8 Defenders.

"I didn't know they used my identity until I got a phone call requesting a payment," explained Danita Sterling of New Orleans. She tells FOX 8, she's never applied for a student loan, but a year ago, she received a letter in the mail, explaining her loan "repayment schedule" and "estimated interest accrual."

"They was asking me about a student loan.  I said I'm not familiar with a student loan. They was like it's on your bill.. you owe $50 a month," said Sterling.  Loan services company, Nelnet showed that Sterling owed money on an $1,100 student loan through the Department of Education.  The application shows Sterling's full name and her social security number, requesting a loan to attend the University of Phoenix, not in Louisiana, but in Gainesville, FL more than 500 miles away and somewhere Sterling says she's never been.

"It just made me feel bad, and then I know I didn't do it... then I have to pay for something that I didn't even do," said Sterling.

A credit report review revealed not only was she on the hook for $1,100, but they were also charging her late fees. In trying to get the fraud cleared, she filed a police report and turned it over to Nelnet. "But they weren't working fast enough so I found the FOX 8 Defenders," explained Sterling.

Volunteers with the National Council of Jewish Women, who staff the FOX 8 Defenders, jumped on the case. On her behalf, volunteers demanded proof of the actual loan application, and when Nelnet finally forwarded it, the Defenders pointed out false information, including where it listed Sterling with a Florida home address. Months after she first challenged the loan debt, Nelnet's fraud department sent her the results of its own investigation, showing they cleared her of the loan debt.

Nelnet explained in the letter that fraud and or forgery was committed on the loan and that Sterling is no longer responsible for the loan debt. Sterling said she now uses identity theft protection and says she'll receive alerts the next time her personal information is used to apply for services. If you have a consumer complaint, call the FOX 8 Defenders at 1-877-670-6397.