It started with a letter from a bank in Florida that stated the payment on my charge card had been denied by my bank. The letter stated I owed $1,777.15, and that payment was overdue. Problem is, I didn’t have a credit card with this bank.
After a brief conversation with their customer service, I was transferred to their fraud division. It didn’t take long to figure out that I was a victim of identity theft. The account has been opened online, and they used my correct Social Security number.
The service rep asked me if I had made any purchases in south Chicago at a big-box store. She mentioned the charges included 5 Barbies. I think that was when all the blood drained out of my face.
My next step was to contact our local police and file a report with them. This report would be a key document in my future actions while I tried to get out of this mess. The officer came to my house and took my statement. He also gave me a fact sheet listing all the other things I needed to do—2 pages front and back.
I told the officer, I really wanted to know how someone got my information, and he said, “Data breaches are a common occurrence these days. You would be surprised at the volume of calls we take because of identity theft.”
After much effort, I got a freeze on my credit with all 3 credit bureaus. Next, I contacted the attorney general’s office, my own bank, and my legitimate credit card company. I started accumulating a stack of paperwork, and yes, I documented every call.
Next, I got a letter from a large Seattle-based department store chain telling me I had been denied a credit card with them. They instructed me to contact one of the credit bureaus if I had any more questions. That showed me the credit freeze was working. In spite of that, I dreaded opening the mail every day, wondering what new developments were in store for me.
The dust has settled a little. In retrospect, I should have put a freeze on my credit earlier, but we all know about hindsight. I still wonder why someone would buy 5 Barbies, not that there is anything wrong with that if you are using your own money.
Patrick Harness is a community liaison with a long history of experience in health insurance. If you ask him to pick a color, he always chooses orange, and he is known for his inability to parallel park.