The Lament of an Identity Theft Victim


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July 1, 2001

I had been thinking about buying a cellular phone but someone beat me to the punch. This person set up an account using his name and paid two bills using my Visa/debit card number. I'm not sure how he got the number since there's only one card. I've heard a lot of theories in the last few days.

Nextel allowed this man to set up the account using my card and never verified the information. Had they checked him out, they might have found that the owner of the Visa/debit card was a woman, and not the man starting a cellular phone account. I don't even have a cell phone! The guy took more than half my paycheck, leaving me home all weekend with very little money. Luckily, rent wasn't due.

My bank's fraud department was closed on Saturday but I made a fraud report anyway. I ordered two, back to back account statements and had to pay $5 for each one. The bank statements wouldn't arrive for more than two weeks so there was no way of telling the police how much money this man had taken from my account. I asked the operator to read it over the phone but he said it was private.

I also called Nextel and had them trace the phone account using my Visa/debit number. A telephone operator told me the account's owner was a man, and said he set up the account more than two months ago. I asked his name and was told the information was private. She did, however, say he also lived in California. Not much help there.

From this experience, I've learned that information is only private when you're a law abiding citizen, everyone else has free reign.

I canceled my bank card but worried whether this guy had any other information on me. Just in case, I made a police report. The officer at the police station didn't want to take the report, behaved rudely and eventually broke down and wrote the thing, which only took 10 minutes once he stopped sniveling about the paperwork hassle. On Monday, I called my bank again, they said the fraud report wouldn't come across anyone's desk for a few days.

I called Nextel and tried again -- in vain -- to get this man's name. I also called the police department, got my report number, asked which division handled such things. I called the desk sergeant and he said an investigator from the financial crimes division probably wouldn't see my case until mid-week.

Meanwhile, I'm contemplating a new career in identify theft, it obviously pays, take very little effort, isn't taken seriously by cops or banks or any other agency. No wonder why people do this -- it's cakework.

I closed down my bank account, took the $60 I had left, and reopened the account under another number on Monday. The clerk told me all my outstanding debts had cleared. They hadn't and I was told I'd probably get several $22 fees. The bank assured me they'd clear the fees once they came through. In addition, I also found out the old account had not been closed, a result of these "outstanding" debit purchases the clerk assured me were already deducted from my account. Sigh.

I asked to speak with whomever would handle my case at the bank. A senior representative at the bank said someone would call me back. They did not. On Tuesday, I called again and complained about how difficult it was to talk to someone about my money, the money I loan this bank so they can make investments. The same money they attach such things as bank fees to. The same senior representative got back on the line and put me through to a woman who was handling my case. She hadn't even looked at it yet, but I did convince her to try and get information from Nextel. I spent a half hour on hold and she came back with the same news I had received. Sorry but this customer's information can't be revealed. Hm.

I placed a fraud alert with all three credit reporting agencies, but I've come to understand that's a joke too. I also called my credit card companies and asked that ID be required for every purchase. They said OK but when I used my card a later than evening, no one asked for ID. So much for that.

 

 



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