Dedicated to Deposits: Deals, Data, and Discussion
Featured Savings Rates
Featured Accounts

Personal Story Of Identity Theft And Fraudulent Credit Card

Tuesday, February 12, 2013 - 10:24 PM
For the first time in my life, I was victimized by this heinous deed. Yesterday, I received an alert from my AAA Experian monitoring service that I got a hard inquiry from American Express. I immediately called them and found out someone was applying online for an American Express Card using my name, address and social security number. I called American Express and had the card cancelled and directed American Express to reverse the inquiry. I was told the application matched my identity except for the email address. I then called the three credit bureaus to see whether I had been victimized in any other way. Fortunately, there were no other inquiries or new accounts. I disputed the hard credit pull with Experian and placed a 90 day security alert with all three credit bureaus. Finally, I filed a crime report with the local police. I spent a very stessful 6 or 7 hours working on this. Dealing with the credit bureaus was very unpleasant. Trying to navigate customer service and getting to the right people was not easy. It took me quite a while before I knew how to proceed.

Incidentally, while I was dealing with this incident, I discovered that a mortgage I refinanced last March was still listed as active on my Transunion report. So I had to call the lender to correct the mistake. I also had to offically dispute it with the credit bureau.

The most important thing I learned from this incident is that everyone should subscribe to a credit monitoring service. Because I was alerted one day after the fraudulent application for the credit card, I was able to correct the situation before any real damage was done. Today, I signed up for Credit Karma and Credit Sesame. I now belong to three free credit monitoring services that will keep me current on any changes to my Experian and Transunion credit reports. I have not found a free service for Equifax. Does anyone know one that exists?

Anyway, I was one of those people who thought this could never happen to me. I know better now.
12
loulou544 posts since
Aug 3, 2010
Rep Points: 3,397
1. Wednesday, February 13, 2013 - 8:10 AM
Lou, this is a terrible thing to have happen and I am sorry that you are going through it.  It looks like you kept your wits about you and wasted no time taking the right steps to protect yourself.  I am sure that even with the credit monitoring services in place you are going to be uneasy about using your credit cards for some time.

You mentioned that trying to navigate customer service and getting to the right people was not easy and that it took you quite a while before you knew how to proceed.  If you wouldn't mind sharing details, it might help someone who runs into a similar situation in the future. 

I subscribe to a credit monitoring service which tracks my credit file at all 3 bureaus (EFX, TU, EXP) and Emails me if there is activity.   A quarterly update includes credit scores from all three bureaus and lists all the items that are reported on my files, so I can do a complete review.  Although it is not free (under $15/month), I have always considered the small expense well worth the peace of mind.  

Again, so sorry that you are having to deal with this.  Good luck to you and please keep us posted as you work through this situation.
7
pearlbrownpearlbrown1,433 posts since
Nov 2, 2010
Rep Points: 6,255
2. Wednesday, February 13, 2013 - 1:23 PM
Pearlbrown, dealing with the credit bureaus was very stressful. It took me a while just to get to a live person for one of the bureaus and the hold time on the phone seemed interminable for all three credit bureaus. In order to dispute the inquiry I had to talk to three C/R before finding the right person who was authorized to do it. I have a 90 day security alert placed on all three credit files, which means anyone extending me credit has to call me first before proceeding. The only problem with this is that it will make it more difficult If I intend to apply for any credit in the next three months. I wasn't happy to learn about a mortgage that was refinanced 6 months ago still listed as active with one of the credit bureaus. Of course, I had to dispute it and that took a lot of time. I spent most of the day working on this before I felt reasonably secure with the outcome.

Since there seems to be no free monitoring service for equifax, I might have to consider a paid service. Which service do you use?
4
loulou544 posts since
Aug 3, 2010
Rep Points: 3,397
3. Wednesday, February 13, 2013 - 4:25 PM
PB....I'm interested also ref the name of your paid service.
2
klinkklink98 posts since
Dec 8, 2012
Rep Points: 265
4. Wednesday, February 13, 2013 - 7:58 PM
Lou, again sorry for the situation you are having to endure.  You'd think the CSRs would have been able to transfer you immediately to the correct person once you told them you wanted to file a dispute on an inquiry.

Also, it's a good thing you found the error concerning the refinanced mortgage which continues to be listed as active.   I'm sure that reading about your experience will encourage others to review their credit reports with a fine tooth comb as well. 
1
pearlbrownpearlbrown1,433 posts since
Nov 2, 2010
Rep Points: 6,255
5. Wednesday, February 13, 2013 - 8:25 PM
Lou, Klink, et al:

I use Bank of America Privacy Assist and have their Premier service, monthly premium $12.99 automatically charged to one of my BOA credit cards.

In addition to the features I described in post #1, the service also includes Internet Surveillance which helps reduce your risk of identity fraud by continuously searching Internet chat rooms, news groups and other non-secure Web sites for data suggesting that your information is being traded online.  They monitor your Social Security number as well as any debit/credit card numbers and bank account numbers you provide them, and notify you if they detect any evidence that your information may have been compromised. 

There is also a Credit Analyzer simulation tool which allows you to explore the impact that various actions (making payments, transferring balances, opening or closing accounts, having credit inquiries, etc)  may have on your credit score. 

One other feature included is ID theft insurance which provides reimbursement to victims of identity theft for certain expenses up to $25,000.

Contact info:  1.800.516.9561  (Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern).  I took advantage of a 3-month free trial on this in 2008, you might ask if they are offering something similar.

Hope that helps. 
6
pearlbrownpearlbrown1,433 posts since
Nov 2, 2010
Rep Points: 6,255
6. Wednesday, February 13, 2013 - 10:07 PM
AAA currently offers ProtectMyID - free for Experian only, but $6.95/mo or $69.95/yr for daily monitoring & email alerts on all 3 bureaus.

If you already have AAA's previously offered CreditCheck Select (for free Experian), then it seems you can get monitoring on all 3 bureaus for $4.95/mo.  Both plans monitor and alert w/o providing credit reports. The paid ProtectMyID includes $1mil ID insurance ($10k for the free service), while CreditCheck Select's $4.95/mo. plan includes $10k insurance. However, Consumer Reports thinks this is more marketing than reality - link below. (CreditCheck Select also has a $12.95 plan, which just adds unlimited Experian credit reports and scores.)

Consumer Reports has a Jan 2013 article, "Don't get taken guarding your ID/Do-it-yourself safeguards are just as effective as paid services":  http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine/2013/01/don-t-get-taken-guarding-your-id/index.htm.  They also covered the subject in Feb 2012:  http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/2012/02/debunking-the-hype-over-id-theft/index.htm

AmEx offers CreditSecure $14.99/mo (after $1 for 1st mo. trial). Besides monitoring and alerts, they include "Plus"  scores and reports (calculated by Experian on info from the 3 bureaus), which can be accessed twice every 30 days. Some reviews were mixed, but mostly because reports were "Plus" scores, not (the mysterious and elusive) FICO.

Having had regular paid service (Citi IdentityMonitor $12.95/mo), peace of mind (like 'PB') and convenience mostly justified the expense. It did nudge me to review and then analyze my credit report a lot more often, since I was paying for the availability - even if it was only composite estimates like "Plus".  However, I don't necessarily disagree with the CR article, since I began to question how up-to-date some of it was.

Clark Howard has long advised doing credit freezes, but not if your reports are accessed often (for work or applying for new accounts regularly):  http://www.clarkhoward.com/news/clark-howard/personal-finance-credit/credit-freeze-and-thaw-guide/nFbL/

I'm curious to hear what works for other posters as well.

Thanks, 'lou,' for detailing your experience - albeit awful and frustrating, but thankfully not 'worse'.  It prompts us to review our situations.
6
ekatekat75 posts since
Jan 22, 2010
Rep Points: 246
7. Wednesday, February 13, 2013 - 10:52 PM
Thanks, Pearlbrown for the info. Since I last posted I enrolled in ProtectMyID, a service affliated with AAA and run by Experian. It offers daily credit monitoring for the three credit bureaus with email alerts, internet scans for signs of identity theft, change of address notification, identity theft insurance of $1 million, toll-free access to fraud resolution representatives and lost wallet card protection. It costs $6.99 a month or an annual fee of $69.95. You must have a membership with AAA auto service.

After what happened to me, I now understand the importance of having real-time monitoring of your credit reports.

 

 Edit :  Ekat, just saw your post. As you can see I signed up for ProtectMy ID.
2
loulou544 posts since
Aug 3, 2010
Rep Points: 3,397
8. Wednesday, February 13, 2013 - 10:58 PM
Ekat, CreditCheck Select no longer offers the $4.95 plan. They are phasing out CreditCheck Select, and have eliminated the premium plans. They are offering the ProtectMy ID plans instead.
3
loulou544 posts since
Aug 3, 2010
Rep Points: 3,397
9. Wednesday, February 13, 2013 - 11:10 PM
Ekat, great info, and thanks for posting the details.  

On my credit monitoring service the ID theft insurance is nice but not a personally significant benefit, as it duplicates coverage in my homeowners insurance (which I think is now added automatically for a grand total of $5 / yr), and which in the grand scheme of things is not worth my time to have removed.  

Similarly, the Internet surveillance is not something I have used, for exactly the reason cited in the CR article from January, namely that if the numbers are out there in the hands of crooks, you can't get them back.  To say nothing of the fact that I get a little queasy thinking about having my  complete credit card / bank account portfolio detailed on a website which could be considered a prime target for hackers.  I'm sure there are all sorts of safeguards but still....

Since the alerts I receive do not attempt to characterize credit file activity as fraud, there are no "false positives".  The alert simply states that there has been activity and on which file.  It is up to me to login and verify that it is legitimate.  The alerts are triggered within at most a day or so (some even the same day) of the inquiry, so that greatly improves the chance of being able to nip nefarious activity in the bud quickly.  The CR article suggests staggering  requests for free reports every four months from one bureau to the next.  But if you follow that advice, and the potentially fraudulent inquiry is made to the credit bureau whose free report you just viewed, it could be as long as 12 months before you see it and possibly beyond a simple repair by that time. 

I have thought about putting a credit freeze on my files but am not ready to take that step yet.  I'd be curious to hear what others have experienced in this. 

I noticed that the CR article offers breezy advice to sign up for free online banking and mobile apps to monitor your checking and credit accounts daily.  Well yes but not all credit providers offer useful alerts.  Discover, for instance, offers an alert to be triggered only when the transaction amount exceeds $300.  So a fraudulent transaction of $1 or other nominal amount would not trigger the alert and I believe that typically compromised cards are "tested" with a small purchase of approximately that amount.  Also, many of my RCAs do not generate alerts with every transaction. 

The trouble, as I see it, is that sometimes consumers fall for the over-hyped claims of the monitoring services, put too much trust in them and want to believe they can just "set it and forget it".  IMO credit monitoring services are only one tool in the arsenal.  Personal awareness of situations which can lead to fraud, and vigilance and personal involvement in monitoring accounts and taking prompt action as needed are the most critical. 
5
pearlbrownpearlbrown1,433 posts since
Nov 2, 2010
Rep Points: 6,255
10. Thursday, February 14, 2013 - 8:22 AM
Thanks PB.....I went with Identity Guard.
1
klinkklink98 posts since
Dec 8, 2012
Rep Points: 265
11. Thursday, February 14, 2013 - 10:39 AM
Klink, please consider posting details about your experience after you have tried out the service.
1
pearlbrownpearlbrown1,433 posts since
Nov 2, 2010
Rep Points: 6,255
12. Thursday, February 14, 2013 - 1:47 PM
Here is a review of various Identity Theft Protection Services. 

Compare the Best Identity Theft Protection Reviews and Deals | NextAdvisor.com

Both Identity Guard and Trusted ID stood out.
3
51hh51hh1,476 posts since
Jan 16, 2010
Rep Points: 6,426
13. Thursday, February 14, 2013 - 4:07 PM
51hh, my probem with the NextAdvisor site is that they are paid for click referrals to some of the identity theft companies. I would bet the identity theft companies which offer discounts if referred by NextAdvisor are reimbursing NextAdvisor more than the others.

In reviewing each of the services of Identity Guard, it seems they basically do the same thing as ProtectMyID. The only real difference is they provide fake credit scores each quarter. I already get that from Digital Federal Credit Union (real Fico score), Alliant Credit Union and Credit Karma. So for the basically the same thing, ProtectMyID is $6.99 a month and Identity Guard is $15 a month.
3
loulou544 posts since
Aug 3, 2010
Rep Points: 3,397
14. Thursday, February 14, 2013 - 7:10 PM
Lou, thanks.  But for two (my wife and me), the AAA ProtectMyID will cost double.  Amica does most of the 3-bureaus monitoring for an annual fee of $39 (for two).  I think that is sufficient for me at the present time.
1
51hh51hh1,476 posts since
Jan 16, 2010
Rep Points: 6,426
15. Friday, February 15, 2013 - 11:31 AM
Ken, great idea to make this the first-ever "sticky" of your blog.   Lou's regretable experience and how he worked through it can be an invaluable roadmap to others who might find themselves in the same situation.
3
pearlbrownpearlbrown1,433 posts since
Nov 2, 2010
Rep Points: 6,255
16. Friday, February 15, 2013 - 12:36 PM
I might tick a few people off but............. REALLY, a sticky on this?

 The post buy lou is not much more  than a ( Polite ) complaint and the final outcome.

Hundreds of other posts say, check your credit reports and use a credit montoring service

The post by 51hh, #12  though is useful.
1
RicochetRicochet132 posts since
Jan 19, 2010
Rep Points: 362
17. Friday, February 15, 2013 - 1:10 PM
I had the same thing happen to me about a dozen years ago.

Went through the same thing. A credit card company that I already had a card with, called & alterted me and gave me the heads up.

In the next few days I got a number of bills from accounts the guy had opened in my name.

 

He had a home phone & cell phone in my name, had them both cancelled.

 

Couldnt get the cops to do anything, I wasnt a victim, i was out a dime.

 

I probably spent 5-6 hours on it over a period of a month or so.

 

I sure as heck wouldnt PAY for a credit monitering service.

 

Shortly after I had the fraud altert put on my report, the perp was at a service merchandise trying to open a card in my name.

 

He bolted.
2
RJMRJM72 posts since
Jan 21, 2011
Rep Points: 404
18. Friday, February 15, 2013 - 1:29 PM
It is now 5 days later and I am still dealing with the aftermath of this identity fraud. Unbeknownst to me, American Express opens a Delta Skymiles account in my name. I noticed this because I got the card in the mail yesterday. I called the Skymiles Dept. and was told they couldn't shut down the account because American Express hadn't closed the credit card. I immediately called American Express and found out they didn't close the card, all they did was put a fraud alert on it. For the first time in this sorry ordeal, I lost my temper with them. I demanded they close the credit card immediately. No way I was going to have this credit card reported to the three bureaus as an opened account. I finally got a supervisor who closed the account (I think), however, it will take a day before the Skymiles account can be closed. Hopefully, I will know today if this fraudalent Skymiles account is closed. I should note that I already have a Skymiles account with miles in it.

I requested the false application from American Express, under California law they have to send it to me. I already know the email address used by the thief. It is an AOL email address and am hoping that maybe it can be traced by the police. I intend to call the police today to pursue this.

I hope this will serve as a warning to everyone to protect themselves from identity theft. I have spent countless hours dealing with credit bureaus, American Express, filling out reports, etc. It has totally disrupted my life. I will be overjoyed once I have put this sorry episode to rest. Although I have done everything I can to protect myself, I am still worried because there is someone out there with my SS and other personal information.

One other thing: I have talked to many people this week, and I can't tell you how many have told me how they have been victims of identity fraud or some other type of credit card or banking fraud. The one thing we all have in common is the trauma we all exprerienced from dealing with the consequences of this heinous crime.
4
loulou544 posts since
Aug 3, 2010
Rep Points: 3,397
19. Friday, February 15, 2013 - 3:39 PM
I had the same thing happen to me about a dozen years ago.

Went through the same thing. A credit card company that I already had a card with, called & alterted me and gave me the heads up.

In the next few days I got a number of bills from accounts the guy had opened in my name.

 

He had a home phone & cell phone in my name, had them both cancelled.

 

Couldnt get the cops to do anything, I wasnt a victim, i was out a dime.

 

I probably spent 5-6 hours on it over a period of a month or so.

 

I sure as heck wouldnt PAY for a credit monitering service.

 

Shortly after I had the fraud altert put on my report, the perp was at a service merchandise trying to open a card in my name.

 

He bolted.
 

Would you elaborate on the sentence I put in Bold?  In lou's case, was it not a monitoring service that alerted him to the problem in the first place?  Maybe I misunderstand.
1
MikeMike327 posts since
Feb 22, 2010
Rep Points: 876
20. Friday, February 15, 2013 - 5:27 PM
Mike, in my case, I knew about the fraudalent credit card application within 24 hours of it happening because CreditCheck Select, a credit report monitoring service, alerted me to a hard inquiry from American Express on my Experian file. It is a fact that the quicker you discover the identity theft, the easier it is to rectify the situation. Even though I found out as quickly as I did, it was still hard to clean up the mess.

In the past I would have never considered paying for credit monitoring, but after this week I am gladly willing to pay $69.50 a year for the service. Through Credit Karma and ProtectMyId Essential (AAA free credit monitoring), you can have your Experian and Transunion files monitored daily for free, but unfortunately it doesn't cover Equifax. I highly recommend the free Equifax FICO score service provided by Digital Federal Credit Union each month. Also, Alliant generates a FACKO credit score each quarter.

I suppose if you are willing to monitor your three credit reports each month, you do not need to pay for the service. However, this is too much of a hassle for me, so I am gladly willing to pay for someone else to do it for me.

 

Final thought: For those of us who have numerous bank and credit union accounts, I would bet we are more vulnerable to identity theft or bank fraud. When many different financial institutions and their employees have your SS and other highly personal information, the odds of something going wrong is probably much greater.
5
loulou544 posts since
Aug 3, 2010
Rep Points: 3,397
21. Friday, February 15, 2013 - 6:04 PM
Thanks Lou.

I appreciate your clarification and your willingness to share your experience with us here. I hope many people will be spared what you went through, because of your thread.

I hope your pursuit of justice is rewarded.

ID theft is just one of the many challenges growing at this time, and into the future.

Any opinions on Lifelock service compared with those already mentioned?
1
MikeMike327 posts since
Feb 22, 2010
Rep Points: 876
22. Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - 3:47 PM
Perhaps I got grandfathered into the $4.95 option from CreditCheck Select, since the member link processed it last week. However, given the Terms say it takes 2-3 wks for monitoring & alerts to go into effect, maybe by then I'll get notified otherwise. If not, I may switch to AAA's replacement ProtectMyID anyway, since it's just <$1/mo. more for some extras (which may or may not "matter" per the CU article), but I'll see what happens.

Although I had TransUnion (via Credit Karma) and Experian (via CCS) covered, I wanted something for Equifax, too.  

Lou's final thought echoes my ongoing concern.  Given high employee turnover at banks and inside theft of safety deposit boxes - ID info must be vulnerable.

I wish there was a direct SSN monitoring service.  
1
ekatekat75 posts since
Jan 22, 2010
Rep Points: 246
23. Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - 5:14 PM
Ekat, the $4.95 option for CreditCheck Select didn't work for me even though I had the free service. It just referred me to the AAA website. It's interesting that the member link worked for you.

I echo your concern about the lack of SS monitoring.
1
loulou544 posts since
Aug 3, 2010
Rep Points: 3,397
24. Wednesday, February 27, 2013 - 6:34 PM
Today, I submitted by fax form 14039 to the IRS. If you are the victim of identity theft, this form directs the IRS to use extra precautions before processing your tax return. Apparently, in the last few years, the number of cases where people filed fraudulent tax returns using stolen social security numbers has grown exponentially. They have the tax refunds sent to prepaid debit or credit cards which can't be traced.  I guess it is not fun if you have been victimized by someone filing a tax return in your name. It was easy to fill out and submit the form. Seemed like a no-brainer to me.
1
loulou544 posts since
Aug 3, 2010
Rep Points: 3,397
25. Thursday, February 28, 2013 - 9:11 PM
If you have unfortunately been a victim of identity theft, one more IRS-related step you may want to take is discussed in this DA thread:  "This is the worst tax mistake you can make", starting with post 4.
1
pearlbrownpearlbrown1,433 posts since
Nov 2, 2010
Rep Points: 6,255
Reply