Citibank Update

After the crazy process occuring with my Citi credit card account, it seems as though the most recent payment did process last night.... finally! That means my credit is safe this time, my account is back in good standing and we at least have a method to pay my cards for now.

Unfortunately the underlying issue has yet to be discovered and fixed. This means that for now I still need to call in and issue a payment to an employee not through the online or automated phone system. This is an incredible pain in the ass, but it is what I need to do until Citi fixes my accounts. 

Speaking with a supervisor yesterday he was able to verify that the orginal ticket that I opened on August 9th has not yet been resolved. While it is good to know that they still are tracking and working the issue, it has also been a full month since that ticket was issued and still I have not yet seen a resolution to my problems, so I'm not exactly feeling confident with Citi right now. 

For the time being though, my accounts are safe and I can continue to go forward with no worries that my credit will be dinged with a recollections mark. Hopefully this all gets resolved very soon. 

Citibank's Conquest To Destroy My Credit

Yesterday I had a very disconcerting and long conversation with multiple Citibank employees, and the issues still remains unresolved. This problem reaches back to July when I first wrote about issues with my Citibank account in a couple of articles.

At the beginning of this year, I closed my CitiGold checking account, the account had offered American Airlines miles for opening and spending out of the checking account. Closing the account went without issue until I moved to South Carolina. Logging into my account from a new location, Citi requested my debit card number as an extra verification step... except I had closed that debit card with the checking account 6 months prior. 

After contacting Citi, the checking account was deleted and in order to continue to work with my accounts online, they asked me to recreate my online account. After doing that for them I was required to re-link all of my credit cards. After getting everything set up, I was suprised to find I could no longer add my bank account as a payment method. This triggered another call with Citi where they looked at the issue, could find nothing wrong and then opened a ticket to resolve the issue. You probably have dealt with customer service before, so you likely won't be surprised to find out they never called back or fixed the issue.

Come August when my next payment was due, my online payment still wasn't working. I called in through the automated system and submitted my full payment over the phone. After that I went about my days until yesterday when I checked my account. 

I was absolutely floored when I saw that my Premier card was listed as in collections status. WHAT!!!??? 

Even better was that my app showed I owed $0 and in collection status. How is that possible?... Answer is that Citi is a terrible company, plain and simple. 

Yet another call was issued to Citi. The agent was very confused as to what was happening. Then she found that my payment was rejected in August. She then went on to blame my bank. Many minutes of me getting very angry with her and explaining this had something to do with the bug on my account and that Chase, Amex, Barclaycard, and Bank of America were all able to pull payment from my bank account, so it was not my bank. She insisted it was my bank.

After hanging up in anger with the agent at Citi, I calmly called my bank and they verified everything I knew was the case. Not only did Citi not attempt to pull money from my bank, they didn't even ping the bank systems at all. In fact the bank showed no activity whatsoever from Aug 18th-30th, not even a poke into their system attempting to pull a payment. This was definately on Citi's side of the equation.

Another call to Citi and multiple attempts for them to unlock the account and allow me to add a bank account showed that it was not letting me do so. I was passed again to accounts troubleshooting, and once again a ticket was issued as it was in July. Now I still await them fixing the issue that was causing me trouble in the first place. 

Problem is that Citi shows me $25 owed and in recollection. My app shows $0 in recollection. I have tried to pay online, it doesn't accept it, I have tried to pay over the phone, it was rejected by their system because I found out later it wasn't rejected by my bank, but their system couldn't find my bank account. I've now submitted a payment with an agent... we have yet to see if that will be rejected or not. 

I am sitting here dealing with a bank that says I owe them money yet will not accept any form of payment from me. We are now 7 days before this is reported on my credit. 

Can anyone explain to me how I am supposed to pay a company that will not take my money? Yet they blame me for not paying them. I don't know what to do about this anymore, I've tried my best to hand them money, and they don't seem to want it. In a digital world, how do you get a corporation to take reasponsibility for a bug in their system? I have yet to figure this out. Tons of stress, and my credit on the line, I need this resolved ASAP, but I don't know how to do so. My last ditch effort is to find a physical Citi location and pay in cash... not sure what else to do. 

Opening Credit Cards Improved My Credit Score

The headline says it all. Before diving headlong into the world of credit cards, points, miles and upper class travel, I had heard this stated. Sitting on the outside it may be hard to believe that opening credit cards in quick succession can actually improve your credit score. This fact is completely antithetical to what we've been taught about credit scores. I'll admit to being a little weary going into my first credit card opening.

Now I'm fully submerged and it is a world of international first class travel, lie flat seats, and superior airline food. Not for one second do I regret entering this hobby, and it has allowed me to fly multiple times in first and business class cabins. I'm gearing up for an incredible journey of business class and first class flights on British Airways, Qatar, Emirates and more. I'm even planning to take me and my fiancee on a journey overseas for our honeymoon for little to no money out of pocket.

As far as the credit score goes, I can attest to all the promises about improved credit scores. Since I started this about 1 year ago, I've been tracking my credit score and over the past year it has increased by up to 36 points in some cases. Credit tracking can be a little odd at times, showing declines over a temporary high balance that you paid off, but didn't show on the credit score that month, or some other oddities that sometimes work in your favor. All in all though, if you track the score over time, it has increased steadily over the past year.

Here is my chart over the last year.

As you can see, I started at a decent but not a mind blowing credit score. Over the past year it has increased to a point where it is very good, borderline excellent. Always keep in mind that you need to pay off your credit cards every month, and never let a balance carry. This is one of the single most important things to remember about the game of points. The second you start carrying balances, the good becomes bad, and your score will suffer. If you can keep on top of it and track everything, then you will see the benefits on your credit score.

Verizon Should Be Ashamed

As I deal with identity theft, one company has stood above the rest for how terrible they have been with dealing with this issue. Verizon takes this honor for me. Warning, the story ahead may be cringe inducing.

I have dealt with 5 known opened accounts with this identity issue. Three credit cards have been opened, Walmart, Target, and Best Buy. Four wireless lines were opened on one account with AT&T. The thing that can be said about all of these companies, was that it has been very easy to get these accounts closed once I alerted them to these issues. No more than maybe 20 minutes per call and they had them closed down and filed under fraud.

Verizon stands alone as a beacon of how not to do customer service. Starting Friday I tried to contact Verizon, now the first issue here is that I saw an inquiry, not an actual account, so I don't know what was opened in my name. Verizon already has an issue in that they have FIOS and Wireless, and these departments don't talk to each other. SO I have two different avenues and each was equally horrid.

I started with the FIOS/Home service. After trying to contact the fraud department I was dropped... 3 times by their phone system. This system gives you options, they all lead to dropping your phone call... every time. When I get a nice person on the phone, they will stay on the line with you until you get through. Sometimes this works, sometimes it still drops you. Another issue, their system won't even give you a thought until you have an account number.. I didn't open the account, so I don't know it. 

I was directed to the financial department who was able to give me an account number, it was an old account I used to have with Verizon... even thought I asked for the account number of the active account they gave me this one. Using this caused problems because it was a wireless account so I started trying on the wireless side of the company. 

The same issues here, the phone system kept dropping me. Bad employees would just launch you into that system, or tell you they couldn't do anything. Over and over we did this until I was able to get a hold of a department that said there were no active accounts open. So they sent me back to the fraud department to see why there was a credit pull on my account. The called as dropped... again. So I took a break and called Saturday, the nice lady stayed on the phone until on her 3rd attempt we got a message that the department wasn't open on the weekend... then I was dropped.

This was a simplified version of the 20+ people I talked to, 13+ dropped calls with the company, a few times bounced between different fraud departments, and only one answer... no new wireless accounts. This doesn't answer if there was a home service account of some sort, or where the credit inquiry came from. I still haven't closed any account that may be open... or even know anything about this. No one has any answers for me and after spending over 2 hours of my life on one company, I've vowed to never do business with Verzion because of this.

Verizon, you are responsible for issuing this account to a fraudulant person and you need to correct this. If someday I am ever able to get someone on the phone who knows anything, then that is the last time I will ever do any business with you short of closing any more fraudulent accounts with you. Verizon, you should be ashamed of yoursewlves.

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.