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ARVADA - Brittney Sato is blissfully unaware of being dangerously close to losing what's important to her.

But her mother Tammy Post knows the fight the family is in for.

"For this individual taking over her identity we would've lost all three [benefits], Post said. "She would've lost her day program that she couldn't go to be with her friends every day, she would've lost the measly $300 dollars that she does get, she would've lost any medical benefits that she gets."

Just last Wednesday her mom Tammy Post was thrown into their new reality: someone had been using Brittney's social security number for 10 years.

Post found out something was wrong, after Brittney's benefits were slightly reduced. The family called the social security administration and were told they were supposed to pay some benefits back, because the government believed Brittney was working.

"[In] 2009 she started working at a restaurant," Post said. "She's currently employed at a lumber yard in Denver. Which we found interesting considering she has Down Syndrome and she doesn't like to walk to the bathroom."

While police investigate, Post turned to the woman who can help undo the damage.

"From the moment I spoke with Hazel [Heckers], she has been my life line, I have to tell you without getting emotional. I started bawling and she was the only voice that could calm me down," Post said.
Hazel Heckers is a victims' advocate for the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. Her specialty is identity theft.

"I chose to be a victim advocate because I wanted to be able to help people learn how to heal from that incident," she said, "learn how to integrate that into their lives and learn how they can move from being a victim to being a survivor, to being somebody how is an advocate for others."

Heckers says the CBI is the only agency in Colorado that has a victims' advocate dedicated solely to working with victims of ID theft. She talks to as many as 1600 people a year.

On Wednesday in Washington D.C., Hazel will be awarded the 2014 National Crime Victims' Service Award.

Colorado is one of eight states in the country to have a person receive such an honor.

"When people call they get guidance through the system and somebody who will hold their hand while they heal," she said.

On any given day, Post doesn't look like someone who needs hand holding, but when it comes to her disabled daughter, she needs a Hazel!

"She's been my life line," Post said. "I feel very close to a woman that I've never met face to face. If it wasn't for people like her, the victim wouldn't really have a voice."

Heckers has a really soft one, but don't be fooled by it, a few things get her going more than injustice, especially against the disabled. It will take time, but her patient calm voice will be loud and clear when advocating for Sato.

9NEWS didn't name the person accused of stealing Sato's identity because he's not been arrested or charged.

(KUSA-TV © 2014 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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