Close Encounter of the ID Theft Kind
It all started when I received in the mail a bank letter stating that my application for an increase in credit card charge limits was rejected due to bad credit score. Since I did not make that request with that bank, I immediately called the number in the letter and found that someone had used my Social Security Number (SSN) and Date of Birth (DOB) to obtain a credit card 6 months ago. I informed the bank that someone had used my SSN and DOB to open the account without my permission. The bank decided to stop the credit card usage immediately and would investigate the possible fraud situation.
I have been getting the annual free credit report from the 3 credit bureaus for many years. It had been almost a year since the last time I checked them. So, right after calling the bank, I logged on to the credit bureau websites to get my latest credit status. All three credit reports showed similar information, but the TransUnion report showed more detailed data. My hands trembling, I discovered that in addition to the credit card, two more bank accounts were also opened without my knowledge around six months ago. I was surprised to find the perpetrator’s company name, address, and phone number right there in the report.
Immediately, I called the other two banks to inform them of the fraudulent accounts. The banks stated that they would close the accounts right away and refer the matters to their Fraud department. The banks suggested that I reported the ID theft to the local police department and put a fraud alert with the credit bureaus. After researching online what to do after being a victim of ID Theft, I did the following:
Initiated a fraud alert application on the TransUnion website. It will be in effect for a year (used to be 90 days) and TransUnion is obliged to notify the other 2 credit bureaus. With the fraud alert in the credit report, the bank is required to ask for more background checks in addition to SSN and DOB,
Went to the local police station to fill out a ID Theft report. The police officer said that the report was primarily a formality and would be kept as a record. The police would not actively investigate the fraud which was the responsibility of the affected financial institutions,
Logged on to the FTC website to register as a ID Theft victim and obtain the latest bank check report from ChexSystems – a national consumer-reporting agency that keeps track of people who have misused a checking or savings account,
Enrolled in the LifeLock program at $9.99 a month. LiftLock will notify its client when:
SSN is used in any credit application and appears in the Dark Web,
Credit cards/email addresses/bank accounts usage has improper activities.
Filled out and mailing the IRS form 14039, the ID Theft Affidavit,
Contacted all my banks to put in extra access security requirements and checked my bank accounts online daily for unrecognized activities.
Two weeks after I informed the bank about the unauthorized accounts, I received a letter requesting a photocopy of my driver license, a home or auto insurance bill, and the police report to assist in the fraud investigation. After another two weeks, I received a letter from the banks stating that my claim of the ID Theft was confirmed, the fraudulent accounts were closed for good, any bad credit status would be removed from my credit files at the three credit bureaus, and I would not be responsible for any costs.
If the bank had not sent me the letter, I would not have known about the ID Theft in a timely fashion. Normally, I checked my free credit report around January every year. I would have found out about the fraud soon or later. The important thing is that the bank had the sense to send the letter to my home address instead of the address used by the perpetrator. However, the problem was if the perpetrator was able to intercept the letters sent to my home address, that would make it very difficult to convince the bank who was who.
The only reliable way to intercept the mail is to make an address change by filling out the proper form at the post office or online. This is a simple procedure to accommodate from moving from one residence to another. Since the post office does not have the setup to check if the address change is made by the right person, the post office will send out the address change notice to both the new and old addresses 2 weeks before the actual address change takes effect. This simple process prevents our mail from being diverted without our knowledge.
So far, all the fraudulent accounts have been closed, all the outstanding costs have been taken care of by the banks, and the banks will put in a request to the credit bureaus to delete all the fraudulent accounts and their associated information from my credit file. But, the threats and potential problems caused by the ID Theft will never cease. In today’s Information Age, global connectivity, and cloud technology, all our personal and financial data can be easily accessed over the Internet with the proper access codes from anywhere, in any time, and by anybody. With the precautions, alertness, and all the countermeasure tools available out there, I am hopeful that the chance to be a victim of ID Theft again will be minimized.