Online Gamers Are New Victims of Identity Theft

So today’s post is an update on the situation where a fraudulent loan was taken out against my bank account.  To recap, the first activity that occurred with my stolen ID was a pay day loan of $100.  This loan caught my eye right away when I was checking my bank account because it was a deposit IN to my account. That’s right, I was a victim of identity theft that had money added to, not stolen from, my bank account.  So after noticing this addition to my account I called the loan company and asked them to reverse the loan and get their money out of my account.   While I waited for them to reclaim their $100 the ID thief paid off the loan with a credit card (probably stolen) and the loan is now closed.

Now being that this money was wrongfully obtained I called the loan company back to see how I could return the $100.  Their response was that since the original loan was paid off there is no further action possible.  That can’t be right so I ask just to be 100% certain, “You mean I can’t send you a check for the $100 with regards to the loan?” Their answer was, “No, the money will just be refunded and sent back to you.”

So there you have it. My ID has been stolen and as far as net losses go I’m up $100.  Could this be a first in the history of identity theft?  However given all the time I spent on the phone creating alerts, closing my accounts and opening new ones and purchasing some credit protection from LifeLock I wouldn’t say I’m up from this ordeal but it’s quite odd and I’m very thankful it wasn’t much much worse.

Is that the end of my worries?  Not by any means.  I have noticed a large influx of foreign and credit card/credit related spam in my email spam folder.  I’m worried that although I’m monitoring domestic activity against my account and haven’t seen any new activity I have no clue as to what kind of activities could be happening in my name overseas.  This will be an area for continued diligence.

Having your identity stolen sucks.  There’s no two ways about it.  What you do when you find out that it has been stolen however can make a huge difference in how big a mess you have to clean up. In this post I’ll outline what steps I’ve taken along the way in trying to un-do what was done with my identity.  It’s not a be-all-end-all list, but it’s a good start for your reference.

In my case I was lucky enough to realize my ID was stolen within a few days without much damage having been done.  I personally know others that have had massive bills racked up and even fake companies established under their ID.  As soon as I realized that my ID was stolen and someone was actively using it I sprung in to action to minimize what they could do.  I did however make some mistakes but I’ll get to that later.

First things first, as soon as you know your ID has been compromised you must notify one of the credit agencies to place an initial 90 day fraud alert.  You can use either Equifax, Experian or Trans Union to place the initial claim.  Once you notify one agency they will notify the other two.  Notification can be done online or over the phone.  Notification can also be done in writing if you’re old school, but time is of the essence so I suggest phone or online submittal.

Experian Fraud Division1 888 397 3742 or their Fraud Alert page
Equifax Fraud Division1 800 525 6285  or their Fraud Alert page
TransUnion Fraud Division1 800 680 7289 or their Fraud Alert page (account required)

Something I highly recommend before you start calling the world is to get a note pad and pen and have that handy whenever you call someone.  Keep a very detailed diary of any and all calls you make, when you make them, who you talk to and take notes on the content of the call (phone numbers, links, addresses, etc.).  You’ll be glad to have all this information written down in a single location when you need to recall something or, if need be, dispute something with details of a specific interaction with an institution.

Now, once that’s complete and you have your notebook ready you need to assess what information of yours has been compromised.  If it’s a credit card, call your credit card company.  If it’s bank account information, call your bank.  You get the idea.  Get the word out to all your institutions that your identity has or may have been stolen.  You’ll likely need new account numbers which will require further house keeping to update any automatic payments or withdrawals, direct deposit for paychecks, etc.  It’s a real pain but necessary to protect yourself.

If only your credit card information has been stolen due to a lost wallet or picked off piece of mail you’re probably covered with just a couple of phone calls.  If you’ve lost bank information or more, as was the case for me, then more calls and perhaps a stop at the local branch of your bank is in order.

Since my bank account numbers were stolen I had to close all my accounts and get new ones.  I also had to dispute a couple of payday loan charges as well.  In talking with my bank I was made aware for the first time of ChexSystems which is system that covers notifying banks of possible savings account and checking account fraud in your name.  Good to know!

Social security number lost?  Mine was.  Call the FTC, 1-877-438-4338, and file a complaint.  Generating a complain with the FTC will be part of your ID theft report that could be necessary to provide to an agency or financial institution to dispute any fraudulent activity that happens in your name.

Driver’s License information stolen? Now this may vary from state to state, but in my case the state of California will place an alert in the system that your ID has been stolen.  This should make it nearly impossible for anyone to try to get a new ID with your name on it.  If you’re in a different state, call your DMV and see what they can do for you.

Fraudulent activity in your name that you didn’t do?  Call the police and file a report.  Don’t like the police? Too bad, make the call!  Now don’t expect them to hunt down the thief that has your ID unless they’re racking up some serious damage.  If you live in a larger population area the police likely have more important things to be doing then hunting down some punk racking up a few hundred dollars in fraudulent purchases.  I’d guess if the damage is less then 5 figures you won’t get any activity from the police to see who’s behind your theft.  Having the police paper work is what you’re after here – not catching a thief.  The FTC complaint plus the police report is solid backing that you’re not fooling around when you tell a bank or collection company that you didn’t do what they say you did.

If you have had fraudulent charges made, after you call the police call the company that was theived.  Thefted?  Stolen from.  Explain to them your situation that someone has stolen your identity and the charges being made in your name are fraudulent.  You can also ask them to reverse any charges back to your account, but I don’t suggest this.  The charge reversals should always be made by your financial institution  This is actually where I made my mistake with the payday loan company.

I informed them that the loan made in my name was not made by me and that I wanted the loan reversed and my name should be blocked from any future loans.  I pulled all the money out of my account but left the $100 from their loan in for them to retrieve.  Well 2 weeks later nothing had happened so I called them back and asked them why they didn’t go get their money.  They informed me that I (not really me, but the person pretending to be me) had paid off the loan a week ago so they didn’t take any further action.  Didn’t even block my name after I told them my ID was stolen. Then they tell me that I (again not me) had taken out another loan for $900!  Well needless to say that $900 didn’t show up in my account.  The next day however, when the loan came due, $900 + interest was taken out of my account.  Since there was only $100 in the account I also had account overdraw fees. WTF!  Now it’s a big mess.  I was able to have my bank reverse the charges but what an unnecessary nightmare.  Had I closed the account and had my bank reverse the original loan I think everything would’ve been clean.  Anyways, it was a good thing I had filed a police report because that’s what the payday loan company now required to really block my name and SSN from being used again and to believe that ID theft had occurred.

So, don’t be afraid to make these phone calls and be sure to keep good notes.  All the agencies and institutions that you’re a customer of want to help you in this situation.  Be proactive to get your life back as quickly as possible and be vigilant with fighting any fraudulent activity that you find done in your name.

For another good source of a to do checklist visit:FTC What To Do guide.  A 40+ page summary that I haven’t read yet but to paraphrase a quote from my favorite movie “The Big Lebowski” I’m guessing that it’s a good guide, and thorough.

I know I’m not the first person in the world to have their ID stolen, heck I’m not even the first in my family, and according to a New Javelin Strategy and Research report ID fraud rose 13% in 2011 to 11.6 million people in the U.S. – but I wanted to start this blog because I couldn’t find any blogs online relating to this topic the way I wanted to.  There is plenty of how-to information available from sites which I will likely link to in future posts, but my intention for this blog will be for it to become a more human landing place for those of us that have had their IDs stolen.

My Story

My identity was stolen as a result of refinancing my mortgage. As you may or may not know, when you apply for a mortgage loan your entire financial history is provided to the bank to determine your credit worthiness. It would be a gold mine for any ID thief to get such information.  Well, after signing my loan documents, the notary supposedly dropped the documents in a UPS box to have them shipped overnight to the escrow office. This was a Thursday. By Monday morning the Escrow office hadn’t received anything and UPS had no records of the documents in their system.

At this point I just figured that the package was lost in UPS’ system. I was focused on completing the refinance as quickly as possible since the rate was going to expire in a few days and I had to travel for work on an overnight trip. The day after I returned from my work trip I logged into my bank to find out how to cancel the cashier’s check for the  closing costs that was also lost with documents.  While doing that I noticed there was a suspicious $100 DEPOSIT into my account. I checked the listed company from which the deposit was made and it was an online quick loan operation. All you needed to get a loan was a name, address, social security number and bank account number. All items that were in my package missing since the previous Friday. The loan was made on the following Monday, just 2 business days after my information had left my kitchen table.

More activity has followed, but I feel lucky that I was able to find out my data was lost and being misused so quickly, and with relatively little impact, after having it stolen.  I still don’t know exactly what happened (my suspicion is the data was picked off by a UPS operator ) but I hope to get to the bottom of it before I have to spend too much time battling the thieves and fighting for my ID.

Going Forward

In the coming days I will post about the steps I took to help protect myself and how I will be monitoring the situation going forward. I am interested to read about how others have had their identities stolen and what circumstances led to your finding out about it.  Please share your story in the comments section. Perhaps through our sharing we can expose the as many scams as possible so that others can avoid the same fate that we have fallen into.

Don’t leave yourself exposed to this type of theft, as I did.  These are the top rated credit monitoring companies that you need to consider signing with, to keep one step ahead of the identity thieves. Don’t wait until you’ve been a victim to get protected.