Flying into damage control immediately after her robbery helped Amy Livingston avert a potential worst-case scenario.
Livingston, 46, writes from home and likes to take afternoon walks. But during one such stroll in June 2018, in a quiet residential neighborhood on the south side of Highland Park, N.J., a teenager snatched the bag hanging from her left shoulder.
It was a recycled-seat belt purse from a now-defunct brand that she calls “irreplaceable.” She grabbed onto the back of the kid’s shirt, but he turned around and shoved her to the sidewalk, where she landed on her right hand. He darted into an old beige sedan waiting on the side of the street, and the car’s driver peeled away.
In June 2018, in a quiet residential neighborhood on the south side of Highland Park, N.J., a teenager snatched the bag hanging from her left shoulder.
“He looked young and he looked scared,” Livingston said. She believed she was dealing with amateurs rather than “hardened” criminals. “I was frustrated by the whole incident, and I was frustrated with myself, because I thought, ‘Why wasn’t I paying attention? Why wasn’t I holding on better?’ As if I could have really done anything about it.”
Livingston, who describes herself as a “late adopter,” didn’t own a cell phone at the time. She shared a flip phone with her husband. Cradling her cut hand and reciting the getaway car’s license-plate number, she walked 15 or 20 minutes to the nearby police station and reported the crime.
In focusing so intently on remembering the license plate, she said, she didn’t note the exact location of the crime.
She did, however, detail the contents of her stolen purse to police: Her wallet, which contained $60 to $80 in cash, her driver’s license and registration, credit and debit cards, and a trial to the safe-deposit box that housed documents like her house deed and marriage certificate.
There were keys to her house and her 2011 Honda Fit
as well as miscellaneous items like an address book, a little notebook, a deck of cards, a local map, crossword puzzles, a small flashlight and an umbrella.
Unfortunately, Livingston was also in the habit of carrying around her checkbook — and happened to be toting her expired passport that day, too, having planned to use it as a secondary form of ID for renewing her driver’s license. “Having the passport was just unfortunate,” Livingston said.
She spent about $400 and up to 30 hours in the subsequent days, weeks and months, including buying replacement items, to rectify the situation.
After she gave her statement, a detective drove her through town in an attempt to find the scene of the crime. He eventually gave her his card and dropped her off at her house, which she was able to enter with a spare trial.
Livingston leapt into action that night, reporting the losses of her credit card, ATM card, passport and driver’s license. She and her husband later headed to the bank, the car dealership to reprogram the keys, and Home Depot
for new locks.
As a stopgap anti-theft measure, they bought a “club” locking device for their car. And since Livingston no longer had a passport to use as a form of identification for obtaining a new driver’s license, she visited her parents in Hopewell, N.J., to retrieve a copy of her birth certificate.
It took Livingston about a week to replace personal documents she immediately needed, and a couple of months to replace all of the items she had lost. All told, Livingston says she spent about $400 and up to 30 hours in the subsequent days, weeks and months, including buying replacement items, to rectify the situation.
Livingston didn’t need to freeze her credit to prevent fraudsters from opening accounts in her name, having already done so in light of the 2017 Equifax
hack that exposed about 147 million people’s personal information.
She didn’t need to freeze her credit to prevent fraudsters from opening accounts in her name. She already did so after the 2017 Equifax hack.
Livingston purchased an inexpensive Android
smartphone, a purchase she had been planning for some time. “I was not going to settle for stuff I liked less than what I had before,” she said. “That way, they [the robbers] wouldn’t win.”
Livingston says she never imagined she would be the victim of a “strong-arm robbery with injury,” as police would term the incident, in Highland Park, her home of 15 years.
The New Jersey borough, located just northeast of New Brunswick, has a property-crime rate of 13.02 per 1,000 people, according to the most recent data available from the safety and security site SafeWise. Its violent-crime rate is far lower, at 0.35 per 1,000 people.
“The lesson is it can happen anywhere,” she said.
Livingston recounted the experience in a piece for the personal-finance site Money Crashers. One lesson learned: Don’t carry any sensitive documents you don’t need on a regular basis. For instance, she no longer carries a checkbook.
And though she suspects the robbers may simply have discarded her purse after extracting the cash inside, she urges anyone in a similar situation to “go straight into damage-control mode,” reporting the theft and losses of individual items as quickly as possible.
“There were no broader repercussions from this: Nobody broke into our house, nobody broke into our car, nobody got any money out of our bank accounts, nobody charged anything on any of our credit cards,” she said.
“Because I acted immediately to control the damage, there was no additional damage.”