Friday, November 14, 2008

A tale of identity theft

Have you been a victim of identity theft (yet)? Chances are you're at least at risk since thieves have learned how to do everything from track the keystrokes on your computer to spoof your credit card number when you swipe it at the store.

It happened recently to my friend Nancy in Chicago. Here's her story, with some details edited because the case hasn't been fully resolved yet. I hope it helps some of you avoid identity theft.

While online checking my bank account to dispute a five dollar bill from the doctor's which I already paid (yes I am that cheap) I noticed two other charges on my account. One for $xxx and another for $xxx both going to Comcast cable. First point is I am not nor have I ever been a Comcast customer. My current cable is through RCN. Second point, how much cable are you watching to amount almost [several hundred dollars] in charges?
Day 1
I called [my bank] and alerted fraud on my accounts. Then I called Comcast to try and track it. No such luck until the payments actually drop. But was given great advice on what to do. I then with over to the bank and camped out in their lobby until a banker would see me. He told me nothing could be done until the charges actually dropped.
Side note- Good banks contact you if there is funny activity, make sure your bank is one of those. But of course mine didn't. So I have decided to change banks as well!!

Day 2
I went to Chase bank to open brand new accounts and inquired about the fraud protection practices (If you have Chase make sure you take full advantage of their FREE fraud alert program). I then went back over to my old bank to file the claim. At that point they told me it would be 10 business days before I got my money back.

Nancy came up with her own list of things that might prevent you from being an identity theft victim, which I'm posting below. If you have another helpful tip please post it in the comments section.

Nancy's identity theft tips:

  1. Contact your online bank (make sure you check your accounts at least every other day).
  2. If you can figure out the merchant give them a call and see what they can do (Gather as much information as you can!).
  3. Go to an actual branch location and speak with a banker to begin the paperwork to file fraudulent claims (make sure you get copies of everything).
  4. Have new accounts created for you (Before you do so, decide if you want to stick with that bank. Think about how they treated you and how they approached the situation. If they sucked it up big time, ask family and friends they opinions on their banks).
  5. Make sure you cancel all direct deposits from your job and any other automatic withdrawals going into the fraudulent account. If you are close to payday with this happens make sure you have the bank allow for deposits in when they freeze your accounts.
  6. Contact the 3 big credit bureaus and place a fraud alert on your credit for 90 days. You can click on this link for more information
  7. Contact social security and place a fraud alert on your social security number.
  8. Contact the police and file a report and make sure you say you want charges filed. Make sure you stay on them.
  9. GO PAPERLESS - Pay all of your bills from your bank site. If you do not know how to do so as your bank to show you. The less web sites your information is the less likely your account can get hacked. This also gets rid of checks which can be stolen and whatever else have you.


Mary said...

Word to the wise and even the dumb...

Even if you have not been a victim of identity theft. Contact any of three credit bureaus and they will put a fraud alert on your account at no charge.

It's free and it will prevent someone from opening up new lines of credit in your name.

Also contact your bank and all your credit card companies, tell them you want to be notified everytime a purchase over a certain amount is made.

And lastly BUY a paper shredder I get a great one of $30 and a $20 rebate.

Lynnette said...

I agree with Mary that owning a paper shredder is a wise investment. I use it to shred everything from old bills, bank/credit card statements (before going paperless), and checks. You would be surprised at the number of people who tell me they still throw their statements in the garbage! At least I was. I also remove my address from "junk mail" before recycling it and I get a free copy of my credit report yearly.

In regards to checks, I don't have my telephone number or home address printed on them. I also omit my account number when paying bills, which I read helps with identity theft in case the check becomes separated from the statement.

Lastly, I would suggest getting a P.O. Box or a locked mailbox at your home address if you haven't done so already.

Mary said...

Lynnette that's a good one... Removing you acct number from checks. Duly noted!!

Lylah M. Alphonse said...


Keith, I love your blog!

I just had to chime in with my 2 cents on ID theft. It happened to me years ago, but I didn't feel like I could do much about it because the ID thief was a family member.

I wrote about ways to protect yourself from ID theft (and what to do if you've been victimized) here recently:

OK, back to my regularly scheduled lurking... :)