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MoneyDecisions101 => Identity Theft

Identity Theft

Years ago, in 2001, I was the victim of identity theft. Please note that this was several years before identity theft was known well to the general public. I recieved notification that a credit card bill was not processed by my credit card company. When checking my credit card account online, it would not allow me to login. Instead, there was a message showing that I should call a 1-800 number immediately.
So I did...
There on the phone, a customer service rep said, hold on, I need to get my sercurity officer. Then it began... I was interrogated. What seemed like an hour or more on the phone, I was asked many questions. I answered them in detail. I did not know what was going on. One question after another. I was thinking to myself- what the heck is this... is it a joke. Am I part of a hidden camea tv show such as candid camera?! He would ask a personal question I would answer. He would ask another question I would answer. He would ask a similar question to a previous question, but in a different way and I would answer. He would ask a question that he asked before and I would answer again. All I wanted to know is why a bill was not paid! This was going on forever... Then, Finally, the questions were over.

He said "Okay Mr. xxxxx, now that I know this really is you... let me explain that your credit card has been cancelled. It has not been temporally closed... it has been CANCELLED due to fradulent activity on the account".
I said what!? I just want to know why my bill was not paid. The account has been cancelled? What happened; what does this mean?
He explained that they would issue me a new card/account. I then explained that I was niave about this, and I wanted to know... what does this mean? How did it happen? WHO did this? He then explained that "by LAW", he could not tell many any details, or give any personal information about the person. He did let me know that it was a woman. They caught her making expensive purchases on my credit card account. Also, he explained... "In addition to your credit card information, she HAS your checking account information, your name, your address, and your Social Security Number". 
WHAT!!! I said. I couldn't believe it and was shocked and confused. Ideas (bad ideas), thoughts (bad thoughts), started flying through my mind at the speed to light. How could this one woman get all my information and start living at my expense?! 

"She got your credit card payment out of the mail", he explained. 

Of course... I mailed a personal check (which had my name, my social security number (my stupidity), address, and checking account number on it) to my credit card company to pay the account, and she stole it from the mail! What a low-life thief!

So I asked the security officer... "what do I need to do?" He said "you need to close your other accounts immediately".

So I hung up the phone with him and raced to the bank. There, I went in and frantically explained everything to the bank employee. She sat me down, and gathered information. We started going through my accounts to verfiy all transactions. Once we were confident about posted transactions, she brought me papers.. and then more papers to sign. Finally, we closed my accounts. She explained, that if the accounts were used illegally (like from ilegal check writing), then we wouldn't know until later, when the checks tried to clear.

She was very nice and as the bank closed (it was after 6:00PM on Friday)... the bank employees allowed me to stay while we continued to straightened things out. After about another hour, we had new accounts opened, but they explained to me it would be at least a week before the money would really be in the new accounts (something about  the federal banking system). So after all the papework, I left the bank, feeling a little better that maybe my accounts would be secure again (even though I was technically broke for at least a week, until some money gets into the new accounts).

As I drove home, I felt very violated and angry.
I realized the only money I had was the cash in my wallet (less than $200). With no credit card and my bank check card being useless, I had no access to any money! Then, I realized, with my main checking account being closed, any checks that I wrote recently, would bounce! Then, I realized, my direct deposit, from my job, would not be valid anymore, so my paychecks would not get to my account!!
Oh my God... this was looking pretty bad...
WHY?! WHY?! WHY?! Was this happening!?...
  It happened because the world is full of bad people. They will take from others for their own benefit... no matter who they hurt.
  It took several months to get everything straightened out completely. I ended up with a new credit card number, new bank account, several "bounced" checks (the bank covered the checks and cleared my checking account up for me). I never found out who actually stole my account information... but I did learn this... mail is NOT secure nor is it safe. DO NOT mail checks unless you have to. I now pay almost everything online. I use my credit card to pay all my bills online (for cash-back points and liabilty reasons) and pay it off monthly (online) from my checking account. I also learned NOT to have all my eggs in one basket. I have several bank accounts and two credit cards (one never gets used; it is a backup card). Also, watch your account transactions carefully. Report anything suspicious to your bank immediately.

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