|by Mr Credit Card|
This is a true story about an Identity Theft that occurred to “Atlas” (pen name) from My Money Shrugged. Though identity theft is always reported in the news, it is not like we encounter people everyday who have their identity stolen. I’ve asked Atlas to tell his story. He even sent photos of his files! Please check out his blog and subscribe to his rss feed. Here is his story in his own words
How it happened?
January 12, 2004, the day my identity was stolen, I went to my mailbox and received my mail. On the way back to my apartment I saw a letter from Exxon Mobil and was surprised when it had “immediate attention” required on it. At that point in my life I was used to receiving credit card offers and such, but this envelope did not look like the normal ones. I opened up the letter to find out that an account had recently been opened up under my name, but the address and/or first-last name did not match with the one with the consumer credit bureau report. They wrote the letter to confirm that I had opened an account. Thank goodness they wrote me because I was able to call them back immediately, only to find out that it was real and that it had not been used yet.
They were very helpful and they told me only that I needed to contact the credit bureaus and the FTC. I needed to let them know that there was a possibly of identity theft. Once I contacted all three of the credit bureaus and told them my situation they told me I needed to file a police report and that they would all send me my reports ASAP. I received all credit report to find that they had also opened and American Express card under my previous mailing address. I had to write letters to both Exxon and AMEX, write letters to all three of the credit bureaus, and I had to write to FTC and request an investigation of identity theft.
I also needed to add a fraud alert in writing and over the phone on to all of my credit, reports, mailing, and credit cards. I had to write all of my financial institutions and notify them of my situation while documenting everything, including logs of all phone conversations with the names of people whom with I spoke. Along with each piece of documentation, I had to make copies of my Social Security card, Pay Stud with SSN, W2 Forms, Drivers License, Rental/Lease Agreement and Utility Bill. Once I got all documents prepared and made sure everything was really nice and tight, I had to spend the extra money to send each one to each institution by certified mail (at the time, it cost me around $50.00). I received letters from all of the investigations for my claim of fraud and they all determined that I was not responsible for any fraudulent transactions. Also, everything had been removed from my credit report and score, even though it took somewhere between 30-90 days.
Call from Collection Agency! Yikes
As a side note…knowing that they had opened at least one account at my past address I was pretty sure they were going to get caught, but I never heard back from the LAPD about my case or their findings. Fast forward to July 19, 2006. I received a statement from Capital Management Services, Inc. notifying me to resolve a delinquent debt of $1743.58. I immediately contacted the collection agency and asked what is going on with the delinquent debt. I have never in my life been called a liar, until I spoke with the service rep. She told me that I was lying and that I needed to pay them right that second. We got into the most heated debate and I was absolutely floored with what she saying. We ended the conversation because we were yelling at each other and, eventually, she hung up on me. I was shaking when I got off the phone with her. I had never experienced anyone so hateful, but was also scared about what was going to happen to my credit score.
Dealing with Collection Agency
I called my father and together we came up with a game plan on how to deal with the settlement company. After our conversation, I called Chase Bank, USA, and spoke with their fraud department. They informed me that someone opened a Home Depot account under the alias of my wife, and that they had my social security #.
I got a buddy of mine who went to law school to write a letter disputing the debt. In the letter we wrote the collection agency telling them that the address they had for the card was incorrect, along with my mothers maiden name they had on file. I also requested that they hold all collection activities that would show up on my credit report and damage my credit score. I had to go through the whole process I previously outlined above, plus add the collection agency to the list. After filing another police report, I had to add an “extended” fraud alert to my credit reports via certified mail. Once again I never heard back from the LAPD, but Chase determined that I wasn’t responsible for the transactions and cleared the delinquent debt and marks on my credit.
I decided that I had had enough. I opened a Lifelock account, which protects my identity, but costs me $110.00 per year. I also take the time every year to check my credit report to make sure nothing suspicious shows up. Every time I open a new line of credit I have to go through a whole identity verification process. I either have to go through a series of questions to prove my identity before I can open an account. When I was trying to get cable, I signed up online and the day when technician was supposed set up, the system froze me out. I called the cable company and their online system never signed me up. I had to show valid I.D and proof of residency in person down at the cable company’s office. Little things like this constantly haunt me and it is just a part of life now.
The one and only good thing that came out of this situation is that I don’t receive junk mail anymore. I didn’t need identity theft to happen to stop receiving it. The kicker in this whole story is that it was not only my identity stolen. They stole my life away from me. It cost a lot of money when it happened and it is still costing me my hard earned money everyday. Money is money and it sucks, but the thief easily took days, if not weeks, off of my life by having to fill out paper work, file police reports, mail documents, and had to talk with the rudest person I have ever spoken to. That is time I will never get back and it is unacceptable that people can get away with this. They not only steal your identity, but they steal your livelihood, your thought process, and your money. It is you that has to suffer, it is you that has to make all the efforts, it is you that has to worry, it is you that has to spend the extra money, it is you that has to go through a longer process for opening up another line of credit, it is you that has to explain yourself, and it is you that will never get your life back for dealing with this. Identity thieves have no soul, they are the scum of the earth, and they have no moral code by which they live.
I would never wish this on my worst enemy, but I can honestly say that all the credit card companies, the FTC, and the credit bureaus were absolutely wonderful while dealing with the situation. They were on my side, they took it very seriously, and that they told me they would do everything in their power to work with me to make sure my credit was cleared. I hope that my story can be an inspiration to help you take all the steps you need to make sure it never happens to you. If you have any questions please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Note from Mr Credit Card – If you have similar experiences, please share them with us by commenting below. If you would like me to publish your story, please submit it here.
Finally, I really want to thank Atlas for taking the time to share his story with us. Please visit his blog and feel free to ask questions here as well. I’m sure he’ll be checking this post.