Spooked by identity theft – Part 2
Don’t get me wrong, I like Halloween as much as the next person, but all right already, let’s stop with the scary stuff. Last week I lamented about my fleeting encounter with bank fraud. At the time I thought it was over, everything was under control and I was moving on, but it turned out to be just another case of counting those chickens too soon.
Before I go on, let me first say that sometimes you need to pay attention to those annoying phone calls from banks and credit card companies. Caller ID is a great invention to avoid your crazy relatives, but there are times when you actually need to pick up the phone. Like I said last week, I first avoided phone calls from the bank which proved to be a mistake, and then I avoided calls from a representative of Discover Card, another mistake.
After listening carefully to the voice mail left by Discover Card I realized that I was into round two of the fraud scenario. Following verification through an internet check of the Discover Card Fraud Division phone number, I was informed that someone had attempted to open a credit card in my name.
Discover Card caught it through a reverse directory check of addresses. Discover Card put a stop on the application for the credit card and suggested we file a 90 day fraud alert and purchase a credit monitoring subscription, both of which we had already done and file a police report. The Manatee Sheriff’s Office informed my husband and I that there has been a rash of similar frauds recently indicating this was the third report he took that day, and those are only the ones being reported.
Round three came after I checked my credit report. Remember you can do this free of charge once a year from each of the three credit reporting companies. The report, which runs over 15 pages, can be intimidating, but it is essential that you read it line by line to verify all of the information – best done before cocktail hour.
The report revealed not only another unauthorized credit card opened, but also listed my most current address as the North Miami Beach one the bank previously told me about. I managed to get through to the credit card fraud department, located in India, and advise it this was a fraud. Next I started reading the procedure required to correct the personal information on the report. This is when I decided it was five o’clock somewhere in the world.
Although I think I’ve covered all bases, I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. I feel especially sorry for individuals who may not be able to slog their way through the computer programs, telephone calls and paperwork involved in correcting a perpetrated fraud, but help is coming.
As of Nov. 1, the Federal Trade Commission has instituted red flag requirements for financial institutions and creditors. The federal program mandates that financial institutions must provide for identification detection. They are required to monitor patterns, practices or specific activities, known as red flags that could indicate identity theft. For more information on this program, you can go to the Federal Trade Commission Web site or just search "red flag requirements.”
I’m certainly glad to see the government getting involved with new regulations, however, the responsibility still rests on you as a consumer. Check your credit reports, review your bank and credit card accounts on a regular basis, either by phone or on line, and fiercely protect your identity. If you’re not careful you may be living Halloween all year 'round.