OK, which one of you gave my Name, Address, SSN and Date of Birth to an I.D. Thief in Miramar, FL?
Yes, Uncle Larry is the victim of I.D. theft and the thief has my name, address, SSN and DOB! It’s hard for me to tell you how frustrating and time-consuming this is. Aside from your sympathy I thought it might be beneficial if I told you all the follow-up steps I have taken – and the things the thief has tried to do – so if it happens to you – God Forbid – you will be better prepared than I was.
What has the miserable, scum thief done so far? He/she has tried to open three new Credit card accounts with companies I do not have credit with – and have the cards mailed to a drop box in Miramar, FL. One of them was Discover Card and they called – questioning if I had indeed opened an account because the thief did not give my address exactly right. This was our first warning something was up.
The thieves contacted American Express and ask for a new card – on my existing account – to be mailed to them. AX blew them off and immediately sent me an e-mail and text telling me to call and that something was up. This was our second warming. From what I have gleaned so far AX has absolutely the best Credit Fraud Protection Program, policies and people.
The thief then contacted – via computer my Bank and asked for and received approval for two new Debit cards – with which they could deplete our Bank accounts and who knows what else! Fortunately one of them was mailed to my address – which was our third warning that we had been scammed. When I asked my Bank how they could approve two different debit cards the lady said “sir, that’s just how much smarter they are than us.”
Just this very moment as I am typing this note to you AT&T’s Fraud Department called to “verify” that I had just requested two new accounts for unlimited text and voice mobile service. What’s with two of everything? AT&T called me because they saw the Credit Fraud Alert on Equifax (see below).
Apparently the thieves do not have any of my credit card numbers because no fraudulent charges have been made to any of my accounts to date. The local police tell me this means they bought my credit information from someone I have given it to like a hospital, Doctor’s office, cable company and on and on and on. The officer told me it is a waste of my time to try to figure it out – just do the things I can to protect myself going forward.
Obviously I can’t know what the thieves will do in the future – if anything – which is probably the most stressful part of this very bad and time-consuming experience.
OK – now let’s talk about what I have done so far. I started the process listed below the minute we got our first warning from Discover Card.
Everyone says the first thing you must do is contact the three credit reporting agencies – Transunion, Equifax and Experian (The Big 3) – and have them put a “Credit Fraud Alert” (CFA) on your account. The Big 3 are mandated by law to do this for you at no charge. The first CFA you report stays in effect for 90 days. You can roll over your alert every 90 days thereafter. If you file a police report and give The Big 3 a case number they can put a CFA on your file for up to seven years. This lets anyone who is checking your credit know that you are the victim of fraud. One credit card company and AT&T called me when the thieves applied for credit because they saw the CFA when they checked my credit. It warns anyone who checks my credit that I am a victim of fraud. As long as the CFA is in effect The Big 3 can not give out any information – to anyone – unless I contact them and specifically release them to do so. If I decide to apply for a loan or a new credit card I will have to contact the Big 3 and tell them what I have done and fill out a form – so it’s not something you want to do lightly.
While I was contacting each of The Big 3 I signed up for their credit protection services. The prices are all around $15 monthly. As a client if anyone contacts them to ask about me they will send me an e-mail with the name and phone number of the person/company who contacted them. With Transunion and Equifax you can also get something called “Credit Lock.” This service will not allow anyone to get any information about me so long as my account is “locked.” If I decide I no longer need to be locked I can simply “unlock” my account on-line. This is different from a “Credit Freeze” – which can only be unfrozen in writing and with a PIN you are assigned. God forbid you should forget the PIN number. If so – you will be “frozen” forever.
The local Police were my next call. They sent an Officer out and he took down our information and he was very courteous and polite. However, I have since learned from the Officer In Charge that there is almost no possibility they will receive the cooperation necessary from other jurisdictions to arrest anyone – even though I have the address where the cards were to be sent and a phone number – probably a burner phone they said. As far as I can tell the only reason to file a Police report is to have a case number which you can give to the Big 3 if you want a long-term CFA on your credit file.
I called all my credit card companies (4) and on three of them I canceled the card and had a new one issued. I also went to their websites and changed my user name and passwords. The people at AX were so confident they have a strong Consumer Fraud Protection Program they did not encourage me to change my number.
I called our two banks and told them my story and they told me not to worry. It was only two days later that one of them issued two debit cards on my account. I guess their definition of “not to worry” and mine are different.
My next search was with the IRS. I could not find a phone number that helped with ID Theftl so I searched their Website for Credit Fraud and found there is a form you must fill out – 14039 – then fax and or mail it to them. The site says once received they will watch for any suspicious activity on any tax return with my SSN.
I then contacted The Social Security Administration at 800-269-0271. All I got from this number was information but nothing specific for me. I was directed to a SSA site -www.ssa.gov/oig – where I sent SSA an e-mail – and filled out a form – which had nothing to do with ID Theft and to which I have received no return.
Finally, I checked on the FTC website -consumer.gov/idtheft and found that about as helpful as a Democrat in a working session on cutting entitlements – all information and no action.
To date that’s what has happened and its been less than a week. I don’t mean to discourage you but every agency and or credit card company you call will keep you on hold and transfer you a minimum of three times before you find someone who will help you with your problem.
Here’s my bottom line. I.D. Theft is a problem and is getting worse because no one in law enforcement or the government really gives a damn about it. To the thieves it’s simply a numbers game. They steal credit cards and or personal financial information and do what they can with it. If they don’t get anywhere they move on to the next one. I.D. Theft is sort of like the weather. Everyone is talking about it but nobody is really doing anything you can count on about it.