August 31, 2007

ID Theft- First Step

Posted in Fraud, IDTheft at 11:45 am by a11en

Quick post here, guys. I’ve sent a Fraud alert to all three credit report companies. This can be done over the phone, and is the first step to stopping any future attempts at obtaining accounts in your name.

This page from the FTC was extremely useful (more info than included here): ID Theft Immediate Steps

The numbers of all three Credit Report companies (as of Friday; August 31, 2007) are:

  • Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
  • Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN
  • TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289

They are required to send notice to the others, so you only need contact one to report the fraud, and place a “Fraud Alert” on your account. This alert stays for 90 days, which is likely just enough time to get things in order and figure out what the heck happened. There is an option for a 7-year long-term Fraud File on your report, which I am going to file this month. The longer-term filing makes a lot of sense to me, as I fear this may be the old case from 2004 cropping up again. [The thieves have the tendency to keep your info and recycle it after periods of time are passed for this very same reason.]

I also suspect, given the nature of this type of Fraud Alert (no police report required to file this type of alert) is the type of Fraud Alert which is used by LifeLock and other companies to keep credit companies calling you personally on the phone for any requested lines of credit. [You’d think this would be the standard approach to credit, eh? Well, it’s not… anyone can open a credit line in your name, and you’ll never know about it until it defaults, or you’re regularly checking your credit reports- even then, it might be too late, as this never prevents the damage from occurring in the first place.] So, if you wanted to be your own LifeLock company (without signing over limited powers of attorney to unknown people), simply call up the credit report companies every 90 days and re-instate the over-the-phone Fraud Alert for another 90 days. [Since this time-frame matches those of these companies- i.e., every 4 months, an oil-change… I suspect this is the very thing they are doing.]

Since I’ve actually been a victim of ID Theft, I’ll be filing the longer-term 7 year report.

So, just a bit of an update. As I go through this, I’ll share more, and try and give pointers as to what you can do to keep your credit and name safe.

Next step will be going through the Credit Reports and obtaining your free-report from all three companies (required to be allowed by law at least once a year for all consumers as I understand it).

Fun fun fun… (updates coming soon)

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August 29, 2007

ID Theft Rears It’s Ugly Head Again…

Posted in Fraud, IDTheft, Rants at 8:08 pm by a11en

Well, fun fun fun… received a letter today from a debt-collection agency for a bill with T-mobile that doesn’t belong to me. So, now the fun begins *yet again* to try and track down how this came about. Someone obviously is still using my SSN to obtain fraudulent accounts with T-mobile. Now, there’s a chance, that this is the same old account they are trying to collect on *yet again*, and that their little “Fraud Case File’s” internal to T-mobile mean absolutely nothing to collection agencies. It’s a different collection-agency this time, so if it’s the same account from a number of years ago, then obviously someone is dropping the ball. I have a freakin’ police case-number for the damned fraud, and yet it’s still in collection?

So, I’ll likely be updating this blog to discuss ID Theft and credit over the course of the following months. I’m tempted to purchase into a ID-protection system, and so I will also be updating my searches regarding this as well.

All in all, my hope is to help my readers here to increase their security and be a bit of a test-case for what they may experience in a same situation.

Some Tips…

  • Shredding– I shred just about everything in my house. Even my toilet-paper. Ok, well, maybe not that extreme. Insanely, all it takes to open an account in a number of places is a fake SSN number, a name and address, and bammo, you’ve got a new something (say a mobile phone from T-mobile). So, anything with your name (all those damned catalogs etc.) needs to get shredded (rip out personalized pages).
  • Bank– One of my banks (credit union) is wonderful. They’ve placed a security code that I need to give either verbally or on paper to my bank to do anything with my account. Unfortunately, this usually means taking out cash in person, or more often, depositing. I really don’t care if strange people want to deposit to my account, but would rather it be more difficult to take money *out* of my account. 🙂 So, it’s sort of working in reverse right now, but it’s happy to know my bank (who met with me personally with two security officers in an office) is on my side.
  • Personal Info Management– Try to limit the people you give your personal information to. This is especially true in regards to all the little companies that request your phone number, address, etc., over the phone and sometimes even in person. Keep in mind that someone *might* use your information against you. So, merely politely say: “I’m a victim of ID theft, and I would prefer not to give you my SSN, or my address etc…” Often companies *still* use SS# to confirm your identity. My bank (the other one, who is completely useless) does this.

I’ll have more important tips for you soon. Often the time you figure out you’re a victim is when collections begin. That’s the worst time, as now you have to prove that you didn’t purchase X, and why you aren’t required to pay Y. This is difficult to accomplish. Companies are getting a bit better at this, however, once the accounts are in collection, now someone else owns your debt. Likely this is what has happened with my old IDTheft… someone fraudulently sold my fraudulent debt to another collections agency. Fun, eh?

One thing you can do, is you can request a free Credit Report from each of the three companies. If you stagger these requests throughout the year, you have 1/3 of a year where you aren’t actively watching your credit report. So, you will likely catch fraudulent accounts in the space of 4 months. I personally feel we should be allowed to request and contest credit reports almost weekly or daily. Your credit report is something you don’t really have control over anymore (they’re trying to make it seem as though you do)… and to limit access to these reports is improper. You can request a report if you feel you are a victim of Fraud (which I guess I’ll get to do again), but this, as I say, is often too late.

What is one of the main reasons for ID Theft? I hate to say it, but it’s illegal immigration. You see, in order to work in this country, you need an SSN. So, you can make one up out of the air, or pay for one online. Use your real name, and the fake SSN (or another person’s SSN)… and there’s no real way to check the vailidity of this. So, you get your job, and you make your money, never mind you’ve committed fraud. My SSN currently has 1 other person on it… his name is José (and a name something like burrito- although different- not joking). Wonder if José is an illegal alien? I wonder if José will begin to *collect* on my SSN! [There are cases where this has happened in the past.] So, my friends, illegal immigration doesn’t just affect the poor trying to make a living. It influences legal residents and citizens daily. In fact, it does so in such large numbers that ID Theft is now considered the largest crime in the U.S.

So, I’m actually dealing with 2 separate incidents of Fraud. One in which an account of credit was opened with T-mobile, and one in which someone is using my SSN to get unlawful employment in this country.

Apparently T-mobile lets anyone open an account with an SSN, and fraudulent name and address. Then, they rack up about a grand in charges, and the account goes into collection, and you’re met at your mailbox with a letter for debt-collection? Now, where is my recourse? I opened a police report about this about 2 years ago, and they’re again trying to collect against a fraudulent account?

I’ll let you know how this shapes up. I’ll also try and be more info-rich along with links etc. in the future. For now, let me suggest an excellent read by the famous Frank W. Abagnale: The Art Of The Steal. I see he has a new one out. I’ll likely be purchasing that and letting you know how these both stack up to my experiences.

Anyone of you could be a victim here. My goal in these blog posts will be to help you avoid what I’m going through if at all possible. If that happens, then my frustration can be turned into good.

See you guys soon with more info, updates and help.