Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Last Scary Things Post - ID THEFT
My heart ached this morning as I opened my sister's blog. She and my nephew have been through hell for four years. Now, her son has been wiped out by a thief who apparently has his debit card and personal information. My guess is that this is internet related.
I shudder whenever I order something on line, although because of necessity I did while in rugged Wyoming and never had a problem. But about ten years ago, a box of our bank checks was stolen from our mail box while "H" was in the hospital with a hospital acquired staph infection after hand surgery. That's another story. It was a nightmare.
I suspected a woman or women as they were signing my name in four different distinct signatures and not getting the spelling of my name right even though it was on my check and cashing them, many large ones at Walmart. Now Walmart would NEVER take a check from me in the amount of $600.00 even if I spelled my name right and wrote the right DL number on the check. So I assumed there was an accomplice at Walmart. (Today some of those names are on MY credit reports, and I can't seem to get them cleaned up despite phone calls and letters to the reporters.)
The police weren't interested as I guess they have crimes more important than my overdrawn checking account and draft protection card. I would have thought is would be easy to check who took the fraudulent checks at Walmart and trace it from there. But no. But at least we had our copy of the police report. It ended up that it was a good thing "H" was off work, because he had to run to the bank every other day, as well as take the report around to the various stores where the fiends were cashing checks. I, myself, could not write a check as everything was bouncing. Again, I wondered how could these people continue to write checks?
The bank was so helpful - and they ate the loss eventually, as they aren't supposed to take checks that are obviously not signed by the account owner, or after fraud has been reported.
The effects were long lingering.
It affected my job as I was in finance and we were required to pass credit checks.
The nightmare continued:
Sears called me to verify my social security number for the new account I just opened. WHAT! I have a Sears account, why would I open another one? It was a good thing they checked with me! Someone else was buying tires on a new account they were opening in my name! Again, I reported it to the police. Again, they could care less, but at least it was on record.
Lingering affects today are bad reports on my credit record because the credit report agencies refuse to take incorrect things off. Yes, there is a law that they have to, but it has to be enforced to work. I have persons' names (similar to my own) on my reports that aren't remotely linked to me other than through a mispelled first name.
So, in my nephew's situation, he is just starting a credit building process, as he is just out of high school. This could follow him a long time. Such crimes can be disastrous.
How to prevent? Besides dropping out so to speak and not having a checking account or credit cards? Well in the case of checks, you do not want to preprint anything other than your name on the check - and under that you need to write, "Ask for Driver's License" - then you will have to tediously write in the other information by hand when you write a check, but that will make whoever takes the check make sure your ID matches. I was lazy and printed EVERYTHING on my checks except my social security number.
Never give out your social security number. In fact, I think it might be illegal to use that in the U.S. anymore for ID purposes.
When on line with your bank or with any financial process on line, remember to log out. If you have a home network, make sure it is on "secure."
Credit cards - you want to always have them written down and placed in a safe place complete with the numbers, the little 3 digit number on the back, and expiration dates and the phone number so you can make notification immediately when ID theft is discovered.
Next, if you do face an ID theft by credit card or bank checks, immediately report to the police. Keep a copy of the police report. Then give a copy of the report to the bank(s) or credit card company(s). (These are hints for U.S. citizens) - it will take you a while to straighten everything out, be patient. Also inform the three top credit reporting agencies of the ID theft. We didn't do that and that might be why incorrect information remains on our reports. If you get turned into collection, handle it immediately. Ignoring the collection agency definitely will not make it go away. There are laws in place that provide for this sort of thing - you should not have to suffer collection tactics on something you aren't responsible for. Have your bank close the account and open a new one with a different number.
And remember, after all this: ID theft is not your fault! Not anymore than getting hit on the head while at the teller machine or any other time and having your money stolen through one method or another. If then probably we would have world peace and everyone would be fed.
Have a safe night tonight everyone, especially the little ones. My grandson and daughter will be going to our church's huge community "safe" activities bash - I will be at home handing out candy to trick or treaters.