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What to Do When Your Identity Has Been Stolen

A few months ago I was making a deposit in my bank account. As I
looked at the receipt the ATM spewed out at me, I looked at the numbers.
Something was weird. I looked at the account history and there was
that odd number again. $400+ withdrawn one day, and then on the same day
it was deposited back into the account. Stupidly, I thought it was just
some type of mistake and the bank had made an error. Although I had a
nagging feeling about it, I didn’t do anything. That is, until the next
day when I received a notification from the bank that the account I
share with my husband had been overdrawn and we were being penalized
$36. I didn’t even recognize the merchant the amount was being paid to.

identity theft

I was irritated and upset. This was an account we had rarely used and
only kept for a few items that were automatically debited out of the
account every month. I called the bank and assumed this would be
cleared-up right away. I was wrong.

When I called the bank I told them I had no idea what this charge was
for. They explained that I or the husband had tried to make an
electronic payment towards one of our credit cards. Unfortunately, there
wasn’t enough money in the account at the time and the bank denied the
payment. I told them that we did not have any account with the credit
card the payment was being made to. I was sternly told that this was an
issue I should take up with the credit card company and try to make
monthly payments that I could afford.

My jaw dropped. I was in shock.
Apparently I was suffering from some type of amnesia since I didn’t know
I had this credit card account nor did the husband. The customer
service representative and I went back and forth about the payment and
the credit card company. The rep finally agreed to delete the overdraft
fee, but kept insisting that this was a charge I had made in payment
towards a credit card balance. What proof do you have, I asked him? I
tried to be calm as I explained to him that the husband and I did not
ever have a credit card with this company. This was a case of identity
fraud. After thirty minutes, I was still nowhere.

When I asked for a
supervisor, the rep told me that there was nothing a supervisor could do
to assist me anymore than he had. Instead of trying to argue my case, I
hung up the phone in disgust.

This bank has ads in magazines and on TV about how they’ll be 100%
behind you if you ever fall victim to identity theft. On their website,
they tout how they will walk with you through the necessary steps to
resolve these problems. They’ll help you report this breach with three
major credit reporting agencies. Information will be given on how to
file a police report, you’ll receive an information packet, investigate
what happened. Yeah, right.

After a second and third phone call, investigations supposedly
occurred on their end, but we were later sent a vague letter notifying
us that they did not find any fraudulent activity and that this was a
situation we needed to take to our credit card company and deal with
them. They were still under the incorrect assumption that this credit
account was ours.

Three months later, we finally closed the account, but we’re still trying to put together the pieces of this frustrating puzzle.

When your identity gets stolen or there is an attempt to use your
identity to gain something else, it’s a distinct violation of privacy.
Don’t feel helpless. Take aggressive steps right away to get your
identity back and prevent any more loss of money.

Contact the three credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian and Transunion.
You can have a fraud alert placed on your credit report so that
creditors will take some steps to verify your identity. The fraud alert
is effective for 90 days. If you still want the fraud alert in place
after 90 days, contact the credit reporting agency and renew the alert. A
fraud alert does not fully prevent someone from stealing your identity.
You can also file a credit freeze, which prevents potential creditors
from accessing your credit report and therefore preventing anyone from
opening an account in your name. New accounts can only be opened if the
credit freeze is lifted. Go to Consumer’s Union to find out what your state’s law says about its freeze law and any fees you have to pay.

These credit reporting agencies will also send you a free copy of
your credit report. Make sure you carefully examine every account and
ensure that all the information is correct. If there is information that
is incorrect, notify the agency immediately. Then contact those
creditors with the incorrect information.

Immediately close the account(s) that have been accessed or targeted.
If your bank account was accessed, call the Customer Service
Department, let them know what has happened and ask for the Fraud
Department. Credit card companies have similar departments. Make sure
you ask your creditor to mail a letter or statement confirming that your
account has been closed. If there are fraudulent charges, make sure
those are also cleared by your creditor.

File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. This is a detailed, but simple process that will alert the government of the fraud and can help track down the thief.

Go to your local police department and file a report. Also bring your copy of the FTC complaint form.
This step is crucial. Creditors are reluctant to give you any
information regarding an account to protect their customers. With a
police report in hand, you can request the credit card company give you
information about the account that was opened — billing address, the
date it was opened, signatures on documents, etc.

Make sure you document everything! Any time you talk to a creditor,
the FTC or the police write down the date, time, who you spoke with, and
what occurred during that conversation. Just because you’re a victim of
identity theft, doesn’t mean you are helpless. Take immediate action to
protect yourself, your family and financial future. Fight back.

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