Identity theft. Two little words that strike fear into the hearts of many people who have been there, done that, got the bad credit to prove it. I'll warn you now, this is going to be a LONG and BORING post, but I need to chronicle it for myself, to get my timeline straight and to spew it out in the hopes that I can stop stewing about it (spew, don't stew, my new mantra, ha).
In 2001, my purse was stolen. At a Goodwill store. It was a small purse, more like a large wallet on a strap, know what I mean? I remember the day with extreme clarity. Carlie was two years old. We were doing some housecleaning and had a load of crap to drop off at Goodwill, which you can do in a drive-up bay. No need to even go in. It was early October, though, and as we drove up we saw a cute Winnie the Pooh plush costume in the window. So while Tim unloaded at the drop off bay, I took Carlie inside to look at the costume, for Halloween.
I tried it on her over her clothing. I sat down on one of those little bench things where you would sit to try on shoes, set my purse at my feet, and got her into the costume. There was a mirror at the end of the aisle where I was sitting, probably four feet away from me. In costume, she went straight for the mirror to look at herself, and I stood up and took probably four or five steps to stand behind her at the mirror. We giggled and laughed about Pooh Bear.
I turned around to grab my purse and it was gone. Just gone. That quick.
I went to the checkout, alerted the manager. They started searching the store. I stood at the exit, scoping out everyone who walked out to see if they would brazenly have my little black purse on their arm. They didn't. A Goodwill employee went outside and dug through the garbage bins. The purse was gone.
A police report was made. Credit cards were cancelled. A big pain in the ass ensued. I take responsibility for my part in it. I had my driver's license, my Social Security card, my credit cards and my checkbook all in there. I've since learned that's a big no-no. I don't carry anything with my SSN with me anymore (though I do still carry a checkbook a lot).
Someone wrote a check on the account. The bank called because the signature didn't match. The bank noticed that the signature didn't match! Yay! A security measure in place that actually worked! But even though by their own volition they said "this doesn't look right," I had to do a notarized statement outlining the purse theft, include a copy of the police report, etc. And I had to close the bank account, open a new one, eat the cost of checks etc. in doing so. Not to mention re-route anything I had on automatic draw from the old account to the new one. In short, a major pain in the ass.
Because I had cancelled my credit cards immediately, I assumed the worst was over and I would just have to deal with the hassle of getting new cards, etc. I? Was naive.
I'll give the abbreviated version of what happened next, but basically I started getting letters from collection agencies on various cell phone accounts that I did not own. Police were notified. Sworn statements were made, affidavits signed, copies of the police report faxed. All a big pain in the ass, but none of it ever cost me financially and none of it ever dinged my credit report once we got it all straightened out.
As soon as it this started, this awareness that this was not over, I contacted the credit agencies per the suggestion of the police department, and put a security freeze on my credit. Passwords were established, red flags planted. From now on, no one would be able to just throw out that Social Security number and get credit. I didn't realize that *from now on* only lasts seven years.
In addition to the cell phone accounts, the asshole also tried to get a Visa card, through the same bank that I used. I received a phone call from Visa confirming my "new address" so they could send out my new cards. FINALLY, SOMETHING TO LOCATE THE PERSON USING MY IDENTITY.
I called the police, address in hand of the person using my identity. The police were surprisingly disinterested. Apparently there was a lot of police activity at that address, enough so that the officer who was taking my info. was personally aware of it just from me giving him the street address. He told me pretty up front right then that nothing would come of this. There were several people, mostly minors, with lots of "police contact" in their backgrounds who lived at that house. He said it would be pretty difficult to prove that any one of them in particular was the purse thief. He said they could claim, and it could even be true, that because this was such a flop house, anyone could use that address as a fake address and get away with it.
If you know me at all, you know this did not sit well with me. I was literally a raving lunatic for quite a while about the whole thing, especially the part where I KNOW exactly where some SHITHEAD using my identity is living, and it's ABOUT HALF A FUCKING MILE from my house. Yeah, it was a hard time.
But once the credit freeze was placed, nothing else happened. Eventually, I got over it. I never forgot about it, of course, and became pretty diligent about my purse, about keeping my Social Security number private, things I should have been doing from the onset. And I assumed that it was over.
Last week I got a voice mail from someone which was really ominous. He left his name and number, said it was an important matter, didn't say who he was with, urged me to call him immediately. Of course, I totally ignored this. My first thought was "bill collector," and then in a completely blissful moment my immediate second thought was "I don't owe anyone any money" and I was deliriously happy! (I did log on and check the status of my student loans, my only "debt," but I knew it was up to date. But I wanted to make sure there hadn't been a glitch. It was fine.)
I forgot about the phone call, assuming it was some kind of solicitation. The next day, I got a phone call from my father-in-law, in Chicago. I do not even know this man's phone number without looking it up, and he had received a voice mail for me. Which was weird. Which has never happened and I've been his daughter-in-law since 1998. He was giving me the number, and I was writing it down on the pad by my phone, and it was the same number as my weird phone call.
I googled the number, and it was a collection agency. WTF?
I called the agency, because, again, I had the glorious ability to do so without fear of owing them money. And I'll cut to the chase... they were calling about my delinquent Sprint account, which, of course, I have never had a Sprint account.
I had to call Sprint, get the account details, and turns out the account was opened over the phone IN DECEMBER 2008 with my name and Social, and the phone sent out in the mail. TO THE SAME ADDRESS used to commit ID theft in 2001.
The police department is finally willing to consider the possibility that the person who lives there might be a bad guy.
I called Equifax to find out why this was even possible, and it turns out that the credit freeze is a seven-year thing. And I probably knew that at the time, but I honestly never considered in a million years that seven years later I'd have to be dealing with this shit. And the police person who took my report yesterday said that they would assume it was not the same case but a completely separate case of identity theft because that shit NEVER HAPPENS. But because the asshole of 12/08 is using the same mailing address as in 2001, it seems pretty obvious.
I cannot even tell you how FREAKED THE FUCK OUT I am about this. Not just the hassle of the identity theft, the credit reporting shit, the violation. But the fact that this asshole had the foresight to hang onto my Social Security number and start using it again when the freeze was lifted. That is scary.
So now we have to subpoena Sprint for the shipping records and find out if someone at that address signed for the phone. Of course, I assume they'll have signed my name. But at least that will prove that it's not a fake address. The phone was actually delivered there and received and activated. And used. To the tune of $1,400, which is now posted as a delinquent account on my credit report. As I am trying to sell my house and buy a new one.
The desire to drive over to the address listed is so overwhelming. I've driven past it way back in 2001 but not since. I don't know what I'd do once I knocked on the door, but it's taking a level of restraint that I don't know if I can maintain to not go do it.
After spending an hour at the police station yesterday, I am now about to get on the phone with the credit bureaus, reinstating my freeze. I have to go get my affidavit notarized for Sprint. I have to go to the police records place, separate from the place I was yesterday, and pick up a copy of the police report from 2001. I have to stop my heart from turning into a cold black stone capable of firebombing "that house." I need to get on with my day and get shit done, including show the house FOUR TIMES today (Amen) and work on transcripts and not forget to pick up my kid from camp at 2 p.m., where she is STILL NOT SURE what her role in Hairspray will be, but that is a drama I will save for another day.
Frankly, right now I'm exhausted.