How you find out that you are a victim of identity theft varies for everyone. Regardless, once you find out, the damage has been done-done to the point where, well, you find out about it. Meaning, a collection call from a credit card company you do not have an account with, a bill in the mail requesting payment on purchases you didn’t make, trying to get a loan on what you think is your solid credit and being denied, and even in some extreme cases, being arrested for a crime you didn’t commit.
For me, it was a voicemail left on my phone. At first I thought that call was fraudulent-sure, I thought, I’ll call you back to “talk about my account”. I actually dismissed the first voicemail. Thankfully, they were persistent. It was a call from the fraud department of a major credit card company. Before calling them back, I checked the number to make sure it was legitimate-and it was. The first thought that entered my mind was someone had stolen my credit card number and decided to dine on my dime. Oh, how I only wish that was the extent of my damage. No, for me it was much worse. Someone, this fraud department told me, had applied for credit using my name, DOB, and SSN. They found the application suspicious and flagged it. Yet it didn’t stop this particular credit card company from issuing the perpetrator a card. So, they told me they would deactivate the card. Gee, thanks I thought. Amazing that a credit card application would be flagged, their fraud department would call me multiple times to notify me-I’m searching here for the good reason as to why the credit card still got the green light to still be sent out...
After I got off of the call, I didn’t know what in the hell to do next. Do I call the police? Do I check my credit report? Do I sit for days and ponder how some lunatic got my information and hope that I'll figure it out? I opted for the second to check the damage out first. So, I ventured online to check the three main credit reports-Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Even typing these words today makes we cringe, as they would reflect the damage done in my good name.
I was only able to access one of the reports. Why you ask? Well, before these entities will just let you access your report, you need to answer four “security questions”. I couldn’t answer the questions. Why couldn’t I access these four personal questions? Because come to find out, the criminal who stole my identity had infiltrated it to the point that their fraudulent information was overriding and updating my “real” information. So, when I failed to access two of these reports my only option was to mail in a request. This wasn’t the timely solution I was looking for at 8pm on a February evening.
So, one. I managed to access one of the reports. I scrolled down the credit report, and it still brings a lump in my throat to see how…well let’s say what a “mess” it was. My name was changed, different addresses appeared, places I’ve never heard of, much less worked at appeared in my employment history. Then I scrolled, I scrolled down and saw the rest of the damage. Inquiry after inquiry made to company after company.
I cannot describe the feeling that went through me. You work hard in life, you’d like to think of yourself as a contributing member of society, you pay your bills on time, you wake up to the alarm sound every morning, drive into work, work hard until the weekend, and take pride in yourself and how you handle your finances, while building a foundation and preparing for your future, and so simply some criminal steals your information and screws that all up-and is allowed to so easily. Disturbed. I am deeply disturbed at not only what the criminal has managed to do, but so many companies allow them to do it.
No one cares like you do about protecting your identity.
After viewing what I could on this one credit report, I contacted my local police department and filed a police report immediately.
Little did I know on this February evening that I’d be dealing with the ramifications of this still today.
More on that later.