What to do When You Find Out Your Identity Has Been Stolen
Sorry I’ve been MIA for awhile. But, I am back in action!
I found out my identity had been stolen and it made me contemplate whether I should delete this site and social media in its entirety. Taking a little hiatus was refreshing, but I don’t want to have to put my life on hold just because someone out there claims they’re me.
I found comfort in knowing that I’m not alone. Once I started sharing with people my situation and complaining how many hours I’ve spent going to different businesses or on the phone with collection agencies, I realized just how many people have been through this as well.
It. is. mind. boggling.
It baffles me how much people can get away with by simply knowing your SSN, ID number and address.
It baffles me how little support is out there for people going through this and no real outlet for advocacy. So, if you’re going through this, know that there is a ton of people out there that empathize with you - while that doesn’t make it okay, there’s trailblazers that have been through it before!
My coworker had someone fill out tax returns in her name. My sister had someone buy a home in her name.
I can’t even fathom why someone would steal someone’s identity, but, here we are. Let’s start at the beginning.
How did I find out?
A series of unfortunate events.
That all pieced themselves together. Let’s flash back to April.
I get back from California and I receive a message from IT about wanting to remote into my computer to look into malware. Thought it was odd. They called me and we went through every single location I was at for two weeks while I was there for work. Starbucks off of the San Francisco Bay. The Orange County Airport. My hotel rooms. Listed them all off.
Then, flash forward a few months later where I receive a bill in the mail from Best Buy. Someone had purchased some MacBooks in my name. Jealous, because I would love a new MacBook. I called Best Buy’s fraud department to dispute the charges. They said it was hard to prove because of how close it was to my home. I told them I had documentation to prove that I was not in the state at the time of the purchase, and was able to resolve the issue.
Phewf, dodged a bullet.
Although, I thought it was a little suspicious. Is there someone out there in the Nashville area that has my social security number and driver’s license number (that would have had to of made a copy because you have to present one to open up credit there) that got away with this? Is there someone I know that took my information and is being deceitful to me?
I was paranoid, but received confirmation from Best Buy’s fraud department that it would all be taken care of.
In hindsight, this is when I should have acted upon it. This is when I should have reported it.
However, I just assumed this person just did this one transaction and went on living their life.
It didn’t cross my mind that when someone does illegal activity, that they wouldn’t just stop after getting away with it once.
I didn’t think that after Best Buy, they’d decide to head on over to the Nolensville Walmart to buy an iPhone and open up a phone plan that' they’d never use.
So, a few months go buy and I’m grabbing the mail.
I open up a bill from a debt collector. I’ve never had a late payment in my life. My credit is excellent. What the heck is going on and why do I owe them $1.2K? I’ve never received a bill for anything that I forgot to pay. What the heck is happening?
I shuffle through the rest of the mail and at the bottom is an envelope from AT&T. I assumed it was for Brandon for our internet bill, but it was addressed to me. Which is odd, because I have Verizon Wireless (and have since I got my first cell phone at 16).
I rip it open, and low and behold, dollar amount matches the debt bill. AT&T said it was their final notice for a late payment since April…. which is odd to me because I had NEVER received anything in the mail from them prior to this instance.
So, I call AT&T. And they will not help me because I don’t know my PIN. I screamed at the person on the phone - of course I don’t know the PIN. I didn’t open this account!!!!!!! I had to go into the store to resolve anything to prove it’s me since I don’t know my PIN.
At this point, you can imagine I’m livid. I don’t even know who this demon woman that came out of me was. But during rush hour traffic, I drive to the closest AT&T store and ask to speak to a manager (yes, I was that person).
They were able to give me information about my account after I presented my ID.
Which is just comical to me because their new slogan - No Deposit. No Kidding. - is glaring at me out of the corner of my eye. How about, No ID. No Deposit. No Kidding?! Because apparently, in my mind, if you would have asked for a deposit in the first place, someone wouldn’t have used my stolen identity to purchase a phone. So, while I think AT&T’s marketing department is clever, I think the principle of their operations are so flawed.
Anyway, I asked to pull every phone call, text message, website search, whatever activity happened on the phone. They said the phone had never been used…. and I said. Doesn’t that sound a little suspicious to you?
We get on the phone with the fraud department. I asked when and where the transaction took place - Nolensville Pike Walmart. I told them I was in California at the time for work and that I wanted to dispute the charges. Look at those security tapes!!! I mean come on - but AT&T said to take it up with the Nolensville Pike Walmart. I called every department at the Nolensville Pike Walmart the next day after learning that the person that could help me they were unsure of their schedule and that they were in from 7 a.m. - 3 p.m. Great, during work hours and it’s not the easiest drive during rush hour traffic. I didn’t want to waste my time driving all the way there if this individual couldn’t help me, so I wanted to be sure she was in. And I called, and called, and called. I called the deli, pharmacy, electronics - I am pretty sure they blocked my phone number because no one would answer me.
So, I get back with AT&T’s fraud department and let them know that Walmart was hard to get in touch with and why should they care about my problem - they’re not the ones sending me to collections; you are!
I came into AT&T to provide documentation and expense reports, receipts, flight and hotel information - anything to prove that I was not the one that made the purchase. They finally said that they would send me a fraud packet to fill out.
Well, it never came… After some time went by and I became antsy, I called them again and stressed the urgency. They were able to email me a copy. I filled it out and mailed it back that day - all of my documentation and identification.
Now, I am in a holding pattern.
I have received no follow-up communication, so I am unsure of next steps. I am unsure if it’s off of my plate now and the charge has been disputed.
What I do know, is someone out there still has my identity.
Because, someone created a fake email and emailed my employer that they wanted to update my direct deposit information. They had the email addresses of my payroll department. How does that happen? How does someone know where I work and know who works in our payroll department?
Part of me is contemplating deleted every trace of me out there online and go off the grid by paying for everything in cash. I feel completely violated. The other part wonders if I’m overreacting, that I am not in immediate danger and therefore, I need to not make a big deal out of it.
I’m sure many of you have been in a similar situation before, or unfortunately, that one of you might go through this process, too.
Here’s the steps you need to take when you’ve found out your identity has been stolen:
#1 - Don’t throw any communication away. Hang on to every invoice, statement, past due bill, collections notice - etc. Take notes of every phone correspondence and ask for names of the people you’ve spoke with.
#2 - File a police report. Call your local police department and ask to speak to the fraud unit.
#3 - Freeze your credit. You only need to call Equifax, Experian or TransUnion - and one will inform the other two. They’ll mail you something, as well.
#4 - Call your bank. Call your credit card companies. Let everyone and their brother know. Set up security questions that only you would know the answer to make modifications to your account. Set up text alerts so you’re notified of spending on your account.
#5 - Fill out a compliant form with the government - ftc.gov/idtheft
#6 - File a compliant at IC3.gov if you believe it’s cyber related.
#7 - Sign up for Credit Karma. They can show you where you’re credit score is at and what credit you have open / closed. Here is where you’ll notice if something suspicious is happening.
#8 - Get Life Alert. I just signed up through work and it’s super cheap / automatically deducted from my direct deposit at like $6 per month.
#9 - Follow up with everyone over and over again. Stay diligent! This too shall pass!
There you have it, folks! Not a fun subject, but a necessary one!