Dealing with Identity Theft

I recently mentioned how I had just discovered that someone had stolen my identity. Let me tell you a little about how I have had to deal with this, what companies have been helpful, and the one company that should be downright ashamed of how they handled this.

Identity theft is something I never thought I'd have to deal with. My approach to internet security involves long randomized passwords, different passwords for every website visited and all of that managed by a password manager. I'll give Lastpass a plug here for being an amazing password manager, great software, and very proactive in the security world. Since using these techniques makes hacking your accounts very difficult, I never thought that this would be something I had to deal with.

However, today, your information isn't just controlled by yourself, there are many different organizations who have used your information to open accounts, do background checks, and to employ you. My social security number is almost omnipresent on the internet, and we rely on every one of these companies to properly secure our data, and most of them do not take this responsibility seriously. We continue to here about breach after breach in data security. Then came the government, an organization who has a whole branch dedicated to breaching this security and they don't help their own employment office (OPM - Office of Personnel Management) even do the minimum effort of securing data. Can I actually blame the government thought? This week brought about the breach in Experian, the credit bureau, losing T-mobile customer data... I am a T-mobile customer. Also, the admission by Scottrade that they too have lost my data... 2 years ago. With companies no longer trying to be secure, and companies no longer being transparent about it, how do I even know this was OPM that lost my data. Well, the timeline fits, and the amount of data fits, so it is likely, but I won't ever be entirely sure.

What am I doing about this though, and where did I find out? Well first off, I found this through my credit report on Credit Karma. Once I knew there was an issue, I used Lastpass premium credit monitoring to look deeper. All in all I found 1 new credit card account, and 4 new inquires. Knowing that these credit impacting inquiries were likely new accounts being opened, I followed up with them as well. In the first 48 hours I had learned the following. A Walmart card was opened in my name and $650 has been charged to it, I closed this account quickly. A target card was opened in my name, I don't know how much was charged, this account was closed quickly as well. A Best Buy credit card was opened in my name, there had been over $3000 charged to this card. Those I took care of right away while on a business trip to San Diego.

Once I returned to Philadelphia, I followed up with two phone companies, AT&T and Verizon. Let me start by saying, Verizon is the single worst company to ever grace this planet in my opinion now. They were and still are so bad at getting this cleared, that I will never give them one ounce of my business ever again. Verizon was so bad, 2+ hours on the phone, a fraud department phone system that drops you no matter what selection you make, and people who generally are awful at their job. I had handled this well until Verizon and they upset me pretty deeply.

AT&T oddly enough was my savior. The person using my name had opened 4 wireless numbers in my name and bought 2 new phones on the account. The bill I received showed a $378.39 per month bill. AT&T was so quick to deal with this, it really was a breath of fresh air from Verizon who to this day still has not closed any account or even told me where the issue is from. I don't do business with AT&T, but if I ever do consider it, they have really won me over with their customer service.

So here I sit, with the following. A police report has been opened. AT&T has given me some information that the person who is doing this, lives in my area and since they require picture ID when opening an account, they know where it was opened and even possibly their drivers license number. AT&T actually gave me a little hope that this person might actually be caught. I now pay $10 a month to protect my identity. My credit history is still being cleared up and I have many calls left to make to the credit bureaus.

This has been a nightmare, but I am lucky that I no longer check my credit yearly, but weekly now. The process continues, but it is getting better and this person has been cut off pretty quickly now. To the person who did this, I feel sad that someone has to stooped so low to try to ruin my life in an attempt to temporarily better their own. You will eventually see your actions catch up to you. For now, I quickly corrected almost everything you did to me. You have cost me a lot of time, but little else. Enjoy the new phones without service, and enjoy your new MacBook pro, I removed your service plan by the way, hope it breaks. 

Onward we march, but remember one thing everyone, watch that credit. You may not have anything to do with having your information lost, but being proactive can go a long way to correcting this quickly.