Spooked by identity theft
Last week was Halloween, and keeping in the spirit of the occasion, I had a little black magic sprinkled over my head. It took the form of a potential fraud connected to my bank accounts, and it make for a confusing, inconvenient and basically irritating week.
After ignoring several phone calls from the bank where my husband and I had checking and money market accounts as well as debit and credit cards, we received a letter. Subsequent to visiting one of the bank branches, now called banking centers, I confirmed that the letter was indeed legitimate and that we had been the victims of an attempted fraud.
Our fraud took the form of someone requesting a change of address on our accounts to a North Miami Beach location. Illegally changing addresses is apparently one the most common ways of obtaining confidential data. Since this is the simplest method of getting information, it makes me shudder to think of what is going on at the post office. I have never been asked for identification when I either stopped mail for vacation or picked it up upon returning.
Since our accounts had been flagged three years ago because of a previous potential fraud problem, the bank did not change the address and attempted to contact us. Even though nothing appeared to be compromised, we were advised to close out all the accounts and reestablish new accounts and credit and debit cards. This took the better part of two days at both the bank and at home changing direct deposit accounts and automatic payments.
Through this process I did learn a few new things. It appears that the latest scam is the bad guys stealing outgoing mail out of individual homeowner’s mailboxes, especially when they put up the red flag indicating that there is outgoing mail to be picked up. If part of the outgoing mail happens to be a check to pay a bill, bingo, they have your name, address, bank and bank account number without working too hard.
The bank manager said paying bills on line is actually a safer method since it’s a lot more difficult to hack into on line accounts that are password protected than to get your hands on personal checks. She also told me that bank funds are protected against fraud if the fraud is discovered within 60 days for an unlimited amount of money.
Keeping a sharp eye on your credit is, unfortunately, essential in today’s world. Not paying attention to a potential fraud, like I almost did, could mean years of untangling the consequences. Too often people don’t know they have a problem until they apply for financing for homes, cars or credit cards. The best way to mess up the purchase of a new home is to have a bad credit rating, whether or not it’s your doing.
Every 12 months you are entitled to a free copy of your credit report from one of the consumer reporting companies, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. In addition, you can have a free 90 day fraud alert placed on your accounts also from one of the three consumer reporting companies if you feel you may have been a victim of fraud. All three companies also offer credit monitoring packages that will alert you to changes to your accounts for a fee.
The inconvenient truth is that you always need to be on alert to identity theft and take whatever steps possible to protect your financial security. Don’t let that old black magic get a hold of your life or your money.