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Real Life

My best friend stole my identity

When mother-of-three Michelle Cole met Katherine Hutton at their children's kindergarten, the pair hit it off immediately. "Kathy was such fun. We quickly became really close," tells Michelle. Over the next nine years the women became best friends, confiding in each other about everything. "We'd have long chats and I enjoyed being her best friend," recalls Michelle, 44, from the small dairy town of Mt Compass in South Australia. Little did she dream that Katherine was a calculating conwoman who would drive her to depression and thoughts of suicide. One day in 2004, while visiting Michelle at her home, Katherine secretly rifled through her friend's handbag to find her driver's licence and other documents. Using Michelle's papers, Katherine later took out huge loans with credit card agencies and banks. "For 12 months, Kathy pretended to be me, and I didn't have a clue," says Michelle, still baffled at how she could have been so naive. "She set up the loans in my name, then pocketed the money. "The first time I realised something was amiss was when the ANZ bank telephoned, saying a repayment was overdue. I said I didn't have an ANZ account, then hung up, stunned. "Kathy was at my home at the time so I told her the situation. She was really sympathetic." Confident the bank would soon realise its mistake, Michelle didn't give it too much thought at first. But within weeks she was getting regular calls from debt collectors claiming she owed money to GE Money, National Australia Bank, Adelaide Bank, and ANZ. "Though I kept denying I had accounts with them, nobody believed me," says Michelle… For the full story, see this week's Woman's Day (on-sale July 30)

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