November 2004 – Vol. I, Issue 6
On a Personal Note: What I’ve Learned About Identity Theft
If you’re a regular subscriber, you’ll notice that I swapped my Personal Note section with my Feature Article section (as well as swapped the length) for this issue. It seemed a little out of place to make this article my “Feature,” considering that it’s a little different than what we usually cover in Success in Harmony. However, I had a lot to share about this topic this month! I hope you find it helpful.
It can happen to anyone! A week ago, we received a call from our credit card company to “confirm recent activity” on our Visa. Someone had started charging to our account in South Carolina—and we’re in Utah!
We both had our credit cards in our possession. We shred all papers with credit card applications, Social Security numbers, financial account numbers, etc. We take envelopes that have personal checks in them to the public mailbox rather than putting them in our personal mailbox for the US Postal Service to pick up. We thought we were protecting ourselves sufficiently. But here’s the thing—like most of you, we shop online!
We suspect that someone had hacked into a merchant’s site where we had made a purchase and “skimmed” our credit card information and then created a credit card. A popular tactic is to create a counterfeit credit card with your number and then create a counterfeit ID to match. It looks legitimate, so it is accepted by merchants. Our thief was able to charge purchases at WalMart and Best Buy in Spartanburg, South Carolina. It’s interesting—both purchases were in the amount of $800-something, and an attempted charge the next day was for $800-something. Luckily, we were notified quickly and were able to shut down the account before further purchases were made.
We weren’t sure what steps to take, so since then I’ve been finding out and I thought I’d share what I’ve learned with my readers.
Here’s what to do if you suspect you’ve been a victim or are about to become a victim of identity theft:
As a courtesy, if you notify one, they’ll notify the other two. All three will then send you your credit report so you can check it over. A 90-day fraud alert does not require any proof that you were a victim and can be placed at any time. The fraud alert requires that you be contacted by any credit provider if any credit is applied for in your name. It also opts you out of any pre-approved credit card offers.
NOTE: If more than one person uses your credit card to make purchases, don’t forget to put a fraud alert on each person’s credit report.
Identity theft is the nation’s fastest growing crime, and the number one white collar crime, so it may happen to you. Be prepared, take prevention measures, and take action quickly if it does happen. If your experience is anything like mine, you’ll find a lot of helpful people along the way and some good measures in place to help you minimize the impact of it on your financial goals.
© 2004, Sara Hurd