My mother stole my identity by applying for two Capital One credit card accounts in my name. She charged up the maximum amount on the two accounts and let them go delinquent. My experience with identity fraud is atypical. I paid off the accounts and did not press charges, because I did not want my mother to be arrested. This testimony deals with how I had these two accounts removed from my credit history although I took the blame and paid them off and my dealings with Capital One and the three credit reporting agencies.
In March 2000, I applied for a Discover card to receive $25 off my airline ticket. I was surprised to be declined for the card, because I had excellent credit. I was suspicious, so I obtained an Experian credit report. You can get credit reports on-line now in only minutes. I learned of the two "Charge Off" accounts totaling $2238. I immediately called Experian and the representative gave me the telephone number of Capital One. I called Capital One. They informed me that the accounts had been taken out from my mother's address in another state. I have lived in the South for the past four years. She had actually made two payments on the accounts before letting them go delinquent. I inquired as to my rights, and I was told that I could either file a fraud report, in which case Capital One would file charges against my mother, or I could pay the balance off.
I contacted my mother, and she admitted to the crime. I called Capital One back and told them that I would pay the cards off. I was informed that the two accounts had been sent to two different Collection Agencies and that they could not help me. The representative gave me the telephone numbers to the two companies. Both numbers were long distance. I was really jerked around by the collection agencies. They claimed that Capital One had to handle the situation and Capital One claimed that the collection agencies had to handle the situation. I finally had to threaten not to pay off the debt before anyone would help me.
National Asset Management was responsible for the collection of $709 of debt. The representative told me that they would settle for $507. I was surprised that he offered the lower amount. I had no idea that a lower payment amount was even an option. I paid the settled amount. The representative immediately faxed me a copy of a receipt for the payment.
Viking was responsible for the collection of $1529. Having learned something from National Asset Management, I negotiated the amount down to $1150. The representative at this company was far more hesitant to reduce the amount and accused me and my mother of being "in on it together." I was treated rudely and assumed to be a liar. It took me three phone calls to finally obtain a receipt of my payment and the representative strongly insisted that I pay with an electronic check.
I had my credit report ran again one month later. The two accounts had not been reflected as paid. I called Capital One, and a representative told me that it takes up to 90 days to change a credit report and that the accounts would remain on my report for 7 years. I was shocked by the fact that these accounts would remain on my credit report for 7 years. I began my tedious web research regarding Credit Reporting.
From my research, I learned that if you pay off the debt, you are assumed guilty and the Credit Reporting Agencies and Creditors do not have to remove the accounts from your Credit Report. This was unacceptable to me. I could not find any cases where an individual had successfully removed an account of this nature from their Credit Report, but I was determined to do so.
I placed a fraud alert on my Credit Report with each of the three Credit Reporting Agencies. I was able to easily reach a human being at Experian who was empathetic with me and the first person to actually believe me. She placed a fraud alert on my Credit Report and informed me of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Equifax provided an automated system to place a fraud alert.
I left my information, and within one month, I received a Credit Report that reflected the fraud alert. Trans Union was the most difficult Agency with which to work. I left the information on their automated system, and a month later I received a letter from them that I would have to verify my residence with a utility bill. I live in the dorms, and I was unable to do this. I sent them a letter informing them of my situation, and I still have not received a response from them.
I accessed the Experian website for information regarding Identity Fraud. It was very helpful and informed me that a Charge Off can be removed from your Credit Report if the Creditor requests so. I called Experian for further information. Again, the representative was eager to help me. She even provided me with her fax number to send further documentation.
I called Capital One and asked for their Fraud Department. The representative would not speak to me, instead telling me that all correspondence must be in writing. I asked for her address and fax number. All correspondence from that day forward was sent certified mail and a copy faxed to that number. I sent my first request to Capital One to remove the two accounts and the inquiry from my Credit Report on March 21, 2000. I sent 7 letters between March 21 and May 2, 2000. I included my current address, home telephone number and work telephone number on each letter. I explained my situation and requested that they remove the accounts and the inquiry from my Credit Report.
I also sent a certified letter to each of the three Credit Reporting Agencies explaining my situation. This helped my progress, because each Credit Reporting Agency began an investigation and contacted Capital One.
On May 2, 2000, I received a Credit Report from Experian that had the two accounts removed. On May 6, 2000, I received a letter from Capital One indicating that they would notify each of the three Credit Reporting Agencies to remove the accounts from my Credit Report. I also received a follow-up call from a representative of the company.
You must take initiative with creditors and be persistent. Do not be timid, regardless of how a representative treats you. Remember, you can never provide them with too much information. As the one month mark from my first letter approached, I reminded Capital One of the 30 day time limit to respond to my inquiry as per the Fair Credit Reporting Act. They did exceed this limit, but not by much.
Be aware of how much money you owe and how much you are actually paying off. Capital One claimed that I owed them $2238, but a closer look at the transaction history showed that the amount was only $758. I settled for $1657, paying over 200% interest on debt that I never incurred. I already paid the debt, and I cannot recover the overpayment. I was ignorant of Credit Reports, but after I did some research, I learned that I could have paid a lot less. Do not be hasty in resolving this kind of matter. Take time to learn what you can do to save yourself money.
Even if you think the Credit Reporting Agencies cannot help you, send them letters requesting their assistance. If nothing else, they will begin an investigation which involves contacting the creditor in question. This will at least keep your name fresh on the creditor's minds.
In dealing with the mental anguish that goes along with a family member committing this kind of offense against you, be sure to confront the person and take steps toward forgiving them. Make it known to them that you have placed a fraud alert on your Credit Report and ask them if there are any other accounts that you need to know about. It is difficult to forgive someone for committing this kind of offense against you, especially when it is a loved one, but you have to forgive them. You cannot let it burden you for the rest of your life. It is only money, and sometimes people are desperate or just stupid. It is difficult to understand how a person could do something like this, but you have to keep in mind that we are each created uniquely and we have our unique weaknesses.