Durham man becomes someone else after identity stolen - WNCN: News, Weather

Durham man becomes someone else after identity stolen

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Stone Tyler rummages through what he calls the "Anthony Dwight Stone's dead box." Stone Tyler rummages through what he calls the "Anthony Dwight Stone's dead box."
Stone Tyler had to change his name and social security number after his sister's boyfriend stole his identity. Stone Tyler had to change his name and social security number after his sister's boyfriend stole his identity.

"My name is Stone Tyler, and I'm also Anthony Dwight Stone," the soft-spoken Durham resident said without hesitation.

The federal government's latest report estimates that about 11 million people in the United States -- including 300,000 in North Carolina -- become victims of identity theft each year. The man who used to be Anthony Dwight Stone was one of those victims.

"My friends that know me as Stone, they're like, 'Why are they calling you Tony?' I say, 'It's a long story; I'll tell you one day,'" the new Stone Tyler recalled with a laugh.

Tyler's story is a great example of how someone's identity can be stolen, and why people need to be vigilant about how to stop that from happening. The North Carolina Department of Justice, for example, has a memo on how to avoid identity theft.

The nightmare for Tyler began some 20 years ago, when a man stole the identity of Anthony Dwight Stone and went on a crime spree. Authorities busted the imposter repeatedly on different charges, ranging from drugs, to breaking and entering, even buying a house under false pretenses.

The real Anthony -- like many identity theft victims -- was none the wiser.

"I would go for job interviews," Tyler said, "and when I would call them back, they'd say, 'Apparently, we found something, and you would not be a great fit for us.'

"I never questioned anything," Tyler said as he shook his head.

He finally started asking questions when he kept getting arrested for outstanding warrants.

"I asked the guard, 'Do you all have a picture of me when you say you all arrested me?'" Tyler said as he recalled one of his days in jail. "[The guard] says, 'Yes, there should be something on file.'

"He went, and he brought the picture back," Tyler continued. "He said, 'We need you to come back up to the front with me please.'"

The picture was a mug shot for Anthony Dwight Stone, complete with his birth date, but featuring the face of his sister's boyfriend.

"He's still my sister's boyfriend today," Tyler said matter-of-factly. "Me and my sister's relationship has become stronger since my mother's passing, but it takes time. It takes time."

And the boyfriend eventually had to do time for ruining the name and credit history of Anthony Dwight Stone over the course of more than a decade.

"He only got 30 days for that," Tyler scoffed. "Only 30 days in jail, which I spent a lifetime fixing."

Fixing meant taking extreme measures, including the birth of Stone Tyler.

"I had to change my whole name [and] my social security number," Tyler said. "Everything had to be changed."

And according to Tyler, the hardest part of becoming someone else in order to reclaim his life was telling Anthony Dwight Stone's loved ones about his decision.

"When I told my dad that I had to change my name, he slammed his hand on the hood of the truck and just cursed," Tyler recalled. "It was very emotional. He just didn't know how to take that."

"We see this happening again and again," N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper told WNCN. "It's one of the prices that we pay for a technology economy and for a credit economy."

Cooper's office is responsible for overseeing the fight against identity theft in North Carolina.

"If you get a person's social security number, you can pretty much steal that person's identity," Cooper explained. And some criminals will go to extremes to get the information they need.

"Some of them will actually go through your trash, look for these pre-approved credit card solicitations that you get in the mail," Cooper said. "All they have to do is take it, change the address and 'poof,' they have a credit card with your name on it that they can go out and use."

WNCN broke down the number of identity thefts by zip code. In North Carolina, there are 19 metropolitan areas where the crime is most prevalent.

Five of those are in central North Carolina:  Durham-Chapel Hill, Goldsboro, Raleigh-Cary, Rocky Mount and the state's top location for identity theft, Fayetteville.

But authorities say the official numbers really don't matter.

"It's extremely underreported because oftentimes you don't even know that it's happened to you," Cooper said.

Cooper offered a number of tips to help prevent identity theft:

  • Avoid giving out your personal information.
  • Shred documents you don't need.
  • Opt out of receiving pre-approved credit cards.
  • Check your credit report frequently, which you can do up to three times a year for free.

"It can cost you a lot of money, it can cost you a lot of time and it could cost you your good name," Cooper said about identity theft. "Sometimes with all the work that you do, you can become a victim anyway."

That's something Tyler knows all too well, especially as he rummages through a cardboard box bearing the initials "A.D.S."

"This is Anthony Dwight Stone's dead box," Tyler announced.

"When I go through this box, I feel sad. I should be through with school, out of college now. It's just a lot of stuff in here that's kept me from doing a lot of things," Tyler said wistfully as he closed the box.

"One day, I'll be able to take this box and bury it for good. But for right now, it needs to stay in a closet," Tyler said with his hands lingering on the lid.

Anthony Dwight Stone's past might be painful, but Stone Tyler's future is hopeful. He's set to graduate college next year with the name "Stone Tyler" on the diploma.

He came into this world under one name, and he's going to leave it under another. It's a fact that Tyler said he thinks about a lot, especially in the context of his own mortality.

"They say you'll meet your family that has gone on before you," Tyler said. "How are they going to interact with me?  What are they going to call me?"

And as for the name on his tombstone: "I've been thinking about that for a long time," Tyler acknowledged with a smile. "I'm not sure what I'm going to do at this point. I'm not sure."


Sean Maroney

Sean anchors WNCN News at 6, 7 & 11 PM. Raised in North Carolina, he returns home after nearly a decade reporting around the world. Each night, he brings his love of this community and powerful journalism into our newsroom and your home.


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