It was a notice from our credit card provider bringing to our attention that our identity was stolen. A credit card application had been filled out with my name and social security number, but with a different address from our credit report.
Two days later, a second letter from a second provider – same message.
Until these letters arrived in our mailbox, identity theft was a crime without a face. It was something that happened to other people, but never anyone that we had known.
Then, in an instant, it was real, it was terrifying, and we didn’t know if it even had an end. After we received the second notice from the second provider, our biggest fear was that we would keep getting letters in the mail for weeks to come.
I know that identity theft has little to do with debt and debt reduction, but I wanted to tell our story in hopes that it sheds some light on what to do in case your identity is stolen. This isn’t a scare tactic, it’s simply an encouragement to keep safe what you’ve worked so hard to accomplish financially.
The First 24 Hours
After reading the first letter from our credit card provider, I was grateful that their computer system caught the credit application’s discrepancy, but I wondered why they mailed a letter instead of phoning us. The letter took 7 days to reach us!
Solving the issues of identity theft are extremely time sensitive. In my opinion, it would be a better practice to initially notify customers through a phone call and follow up with the letter so that the customer can be notified of the situation as soon as possible.
By the time we opened the first notice, the credit card company’s fraud department (the contact number listed on the letter) was closed for the day. THAT was a long night’s sleep.
First thing in the morning, I made the call to the fraud department and got the credit application stopped by informing the customer service agent that I had never lived in California. I rested a little easier know that there would be no fraudulent card issued in my name.
Call the Credit Bureau
After speaking to the credit card fraud department agent and googling a few tips online, we called TransUnion and put a 90-day fraud alert on our credit report. This insured that no line of credit in any scenario could be opened in either of our names unless we directly gave permission through a personal verification process.
You only have to call one of the three credit bureaus – TransUnion, Equifax, or Experian – to place a fraud alert on your credit report. When you do, you will receive a free copy of your credit report. Be sure to ask that only the last 4 digits of your SSN to be printed.
A Happy Conclusion
Thankfully, I’m glad to say that the identity thieves were thwarted in both instances and the credit mess was cleaned up without any real harm.
Since we were still unaware about how my SSN got out there (we are always very careful with personal information and we shred just about every piece of junk mail we receive) we decided it would be a good idea to enroll in identity theft protection.
After about 3 weeks, the pre-qualified credit card and personal loan offers stopped coming. Everything was working as it should.
In fact, the only odd part of this ordeal was the lack of information I received about the identity theft case overall. I remained in contact with the fraud department about our case (informing that we would want to press charges if anyone was caught) but all we ever heard was that the case was considered closed.
In a weird twist, they wouldn’t even give us the address that was used in California. Maybe they want to avoid providing information that could be used in lynch mob justice.
Photo By Pink Sherbet Photography