Monday (yesterday) I got a call from Target, asking about my recent credit application. Hmmm. Didn’t make a credit application at Target, that’s funny. Is this a) a fake phone call or b) an indication that my identity has been stolen? I checked my credit. It was (b). Someone has made at least 8 credit card applications in my name since Friday. Luckily 6 of them were declined. Unfortunately, two of them were approved to the tune of about $6,500 between them. And just for fun, let’s throw in some forged checks to the tune of $2,000! I immediately put a 90-day fraud alert on the three credit bureaus, and started calling the credit card companies that had made inquiries into my credit. This involved some detective work, since most did not have phone numbers listed in the inquiry and there were a couple with very generic names. But I’m glad I mad the effort to call, since a couple of them were on the verge of approving applications, or had approved them and mailed out credit cards.
Here are my hints if you encounter this situation:
1) Should you get through the customer service phone number at a credit-card bank to an actual person, immediately ask for the fraud department. This will prevent you from wasting hours talking to customer service people who may be very lovely, or may be total a-holes, but either way can’t help you. FRAUD DEPARTMENT. Ask for it by name.
2) Despite the fact that it happens to millions of people each year, customer service people are not familiar with identity theft and may try to tell you all kinds of crazy stuff–they may act surprised when you try to cancel your ATM card or checks, or they may try to tell you that those “debit” holds on your account are for a deposit. Do not listen. Just freeze the account. This may save you hours of time on the phone and keep you from losing several years of your natural lifespan.
3) Do not trust your bank. They may take your claim on the checks and return the money to your account, but then they may also turn around and make it look like you owe them $890,000, and then when you yell at some poor customer service guy he may explain to you nicely something about the police being involved or a check fraud investigation or whatever and you’re just left there, mystified as to how this leads to a debt that makes you wonder about how you’re going to move to Brazil and change your name. I don’t know how to get around this, I’m just saying: be prepared. They do not care about your coronary health. I still don’t understand about the $890,000, but oh well. It’s kind of funny at this point, though I wish it would go away.
Anyway, keep up with your credit! I am hoping that this is merely a short-term nuisance with no long-term consequences. So far nobody has put the burden of proof on me, which is nice. I guess that is an indication of just how common identity theft is. And yes, they do have my name, address, SSN, driver’s license number, checks printed in my name, and it looks like probably a photo ID with my info on it. Icky.