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Author: tcp100 Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: of 308782  
Subject: If you read anything today, read this. Date: 4/24/2003 3:06 AM
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I'd like to take a second here to talk about an experience I've been going through for the past three weeks.. That experience is IDENTITY THEFT; and I'd like to say a few things to try and save people some of the pain I've been through in recent weeks.

I'll warn you, this is long, but I must vent, and warn others before they have to go through it.

First off, let me start by saying that I honestly, honestly thought it would never happen to me. I'm no slacker when it comes to safeguarding my personal information. I'm sitting here with a shredder next to my desk with plenty of miles on it. My passwords online are always random, never common words, and I never use my credit card at a site that looks the least bit shady or that I haven't checked out a bit. I even cross through extra space on the "tip" lines on bills at restaurants, and make sure everything that might have my credit card number or any identifying information on it is either destroyed or locked away.

That being said, they got me, and they got me good.

About a month ago, I moved a few miles within my state, from one county to the neighboring county. Naturally, I called my credit card companies as I had before whenever I moved, to change my address. They all asked me the same information.. Mother's maiden name? Last 4 of your social? Birthdate? Previous address? .. Things like that.

Once my move was completed, I did something that I would otherwise be writing about on TMF; I paid the last payment on my last credit card with an outstanding balance. I was ecstatic! I was in a new place, and I was debt free!

About a week after moving in, I excitedly got online to check my balance on my credit card, eager to see if the check got there, waiting to see that "BALANCE: $0.00" line that I had been waiting so many years to see.

I got online.. My payment had been processed! But the balance line wasn't zero. It was "BALANCE: $3947.81"

Huh?

I looked up at the top of the screen.. Something else funny was going on -- my address had been changed; but not to my new place in Fairfax County, VA -- but to an apartment in New York; zip code 10027.

Someone had moved me to Harlem, and taken my zero balance with them.

My first reaction was that this was a mistake; perhaps a computer snafu from when I called to change my address. Confident that was the problem, I called up my credit card company to get it taken care of.

Them: "Thanks for calling SuperMegaFirstBanc. Could I have your mother's maiden name?" Me: (reply). "Thanks, how may I help you?"

Me: "Umm, I called a few weeks ago to change my address..? Looks like it got screwed up somehow. I live in Virginia, not New York."

Them: "Yes, we processed the address change in Virginia on the 27th."

Me: "Huh?"

Them: "And we also processed your change to New York on the 6th."

Me: "I didn't move to New York!"

Them: "Yes you did; You called to change your address on the 27th, then you changed your address to a New York address on the 6th."

Me: "But I don't live in New York! I never have! I just moved on the 27th.... I don't live in New York!"

Them: "Hmm. That's not good."

Me: "No it's not. Something's wrong... (nervous)... Have there been any... new charges... (shudder) on my account?"

Them: "Yes. A computer store on the 14th, for $2370, and a cigar store on the 16th for $1577."

Me: "I don't smoke cigars! Nevermind $1600 worth of them! How did this happen! How did someone call up and change my address, then start charging things!"

Them: "They must have known your mother's maiden name."

Me: (Sinking feeling).

Now, I have no idea how anyone could have gotten my mother's maiden name. It's not a common name. It's not a name you would have heard; it's Scottish, and quite unique. But somebody's got it, and they're pretending they're me.

I have no idea how they got my number; no idea why my credit card company didn't raise any red flags when my address changed twice within two weeks followed immediately by large purchases from different states.

What I do know is this:

This person has recieved $4000 worth of merchandise in my name, and I have the UPS delivery reciepts with forged signatures to prove it. (I have been playing quite the private investigator these past few weeks.)

I have the address of this person; and I verified with the UPS driver that he has seen this person before, and yes, he does live at the address he changed my card to. I don't have a name, just an address.

The police in my state say it's out of their jurisdiction, the police in New York say I have to come up to New York to file a complaint in person. In Harlem. No offense to the Manhattanites in here -- I just really don't feel like taking a day trip up there right now.

The FBI, FTC, and Secret Service (Yes, I called them all - I so want this guy to go down.) say they can't do a thing for "only $4000".

Now, it's more than likely that I won't owe any of this; I reported it and I'm not liable. But the money isn't what matters.

I feel violated; I feel helpless; I don't trust anyone or anything; I don't know WHAT OTHER INFORMATION this criminal might have on me, and where he might use it... and it seems there's not a thing I can do about it.

Of course, I've taken measures to prevent it from happening again -- placed fraud alerts on all credit bureaus and ordered reports, placed passwords (random numbers, NO MOTHER'S MAIDEN NAMES) on all my accounts.. closed accounts and gotten new ones even when they weren't compromised..

But, it seems to me, it's quite easy to steal someone's name and credit, charge $4000, and get away scot free.

I'm angry. I'm very angry. And I don't want this to happen to you.

Take some time this weekend or evening, and protect yourself.

1. Place passwords on your accounts. I know it's tedious to remember or secure them, but do it. It's much harder to do damage control AFTER the fact.

2. ORDER YOUR CREDIT REPORT! DO IT REGULARLY! Many people say once a year; I say once every six months if you can! If something is wrong, DISPUTE IT! You can! They MUST listen! BE PERSISTENT.

3. When in doubt, SKIP CONVENIENCE FOR SECURITY! Stop by your bank's ATM before going out, instead of just charging on your debit card wherever you go. This happened to me on a credit card.. If it was on my checking account, and my rent check bounced, I'd be in an even worse mood than I'm in now!

4. DON'T GIVE OUT YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER. If it's on your driver's license, ask if you can get another identifying number. If you're at school, and that's your ID, speak to someone in administration about changing it. (We did that at my college, and that was before ID theft was so rampant.) Only give it to banks, employers, and the IRS. NOBODY ELSE IS ALLOWED TO ASK FOR IT! Your local video store does NOT need your social security number; if they insist, do not do business with them!

5. And last, but not least, READ YOUR ENTIRE CREDIT CARD STATEMENT, EVERY MONTH!! You might be a victim, and not even know it!

So, that's my story. I'm not sure how it ends, because this really just happened very recently. I'm quite nervous about the situation; and I hope this guy will just throw away my bad card -- and move on.. But when he moves on, he'll probably move on to someone else.

Don't let it be you!

-TCP

P.S.. If anyone has any advice, as to perhaps how to get law enforcement to cooperate more with this, or how to track this guy down, please let me know!





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