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InCase
INCASECONFIDENTIAL.COM

Identity Theft & Credit Fraud.
Case History - One Client's True Story

Dear InCase,

Through my experience, I learned how my case of identity theft could have been prevented, and how consumers can protect themselves from identity theft that is running rampant in the U.S. today.

It took me one month of 40-hour work-weeks of phone calling, letter writing, information gathering and the following sequence of events to learn this and I'd like to share it with your visitors.

I live and work in Chicago, last November, my bank account statements started going to an apartment in Miami. I gave no authorization for this. I continued to conduct frequent ATM transactions in Chicago and noticed nothing amiss with my accounts; I also failed to notice the absence of my monthly statements in the mail.

In December, an impostor phoned the credit card department of my bank and reported my credit card lost. The card was a low-balance, credit card I had not used in months; its balance was $0. It was reissued with my name and social security number (SSN) and sent to Miami.

Within a few days, the card was maxed out. In January, a Visa Gold, high-credit-line credit card, also to my name and SSN, was sent to Miami. The application had been made by telephone in December.

The new card was maxed out by daily cash withdrawals in only 2 weeks. This whole time, a single payment of $14 was made by my impostor. Finally, in March I received a phone call from my bank. I was easy to find: my Chicago home and work phone numbers remained on the bank account, although the mailing address was Miami.

While I tried to determine what to do, most of the time I was alone and on my own, worried and uncertain about the extent of the fraud and spending hours on the phone on hold and sifting through voice mail options, waiting to speak to agents at the three credit bureaus, then waiting anxiously for at least 10 days to receive my reports from them in the mail.

I was intensely frightened because I could not get my hands quickly upon my credit reports, to see for myself the extent of fraud, and be reassured that no more bad surprises awaited me.

That's when I called InCase. Within a few hours, they were able to supply me with portions of data on my credit reports from all three bureaus at once. This data reassured me that I had learned the total extent of the damage and that when my reports finally arrived by mail from the bureaus, no surprise horrors would lurk within.

Also, this report told me that only one person was listed under my SSN. This gave me more reassurance that indeed, my most dreaded scenario (multiple fraudulent users of my SSN) had not occurred. Finally, after educating myself further on identity safety, I am confident that the process of data transmission between InCase and myself to conduct this identity check was the safest possible means of communication.

At the time, I relied solely on InCase's experience since I was ignorant and deeply stressed. It is reassuring to me I was well-advised by them on how to most safely conduct this identity check. It was also reassuring to be assisted by someone well-versed in identity check procedures and confident and knowledgeable in their protocols.

From working with InCase, I achieved much-needed peace of mind at my most stressful frightened period. Had I obtained this report from InCase in November, I would have known IMMEDIATELY WITHIN 2 HOURS that something was drastically wrong with my credit reports. I would have been able to call the fraud departments of the credit bureaus right away and cut off my impostor's activities immediately.

I am thankful that I obtained reassurance from working with InCase at a time when reassurance was short and fear and terror at an all-time high.

- What you can do -

The following is a list of measures which when implemented can improve your chances of avoiding identity theft. This list was developed from my experience and from consulting the web site and handbook published by the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a non-profit consumer education organization (http://www.privacyrights.org).

1) Get passwords for all your accounts. Retire your mother's maiden name from this position permanently. The protected transactions include change-of address, change in available credit, and new card and pin-number issuance's. Apply passwords today by calling the toll-free, 24 hour phone numbers for your accounts. Find out how much protection and enforcement these passwords will provide.
 
2) Before you make that call--don't use your cordless or cellular phone. Supply sensitive information only on phones connected by wire to your phone outlet. Unless your cordless or cellular phone is an expensive, code-scrambling model, anyone with the appropriate radiowave scanning device can overhear your conversation including your account information and your new password.
 
3) Protect your Social Security Number (SSN). Supply it only when necessary; never give it by phone to anyone who calls you and asks for it. You initiate such a call yourself to a legitimate entity. Never write your SSN on checks. Request that it NOT be used for identification by employers and financial and educational institutions; it was never intended for this purpose. Finally, never supply it for supermarket shopping clubs or gym memberships. Be watchful when filling out all applications, ask yourself, "Is my SSN really needed for this?
 
4) Keep rigorous records. During the fraud, I missed 4 monthly bank statements and didn't notice! Mark in your dayplanner for the whole year when all bills and statements are due. Watch your mail for them. Keep separate binders for each account and add the most recent bills and statements upon receipt.
 
5) Order very frequent credit reports. For around $8 each from an agency such as Experian: 800-583-4080.
 
There are two other agencies, Equifax and TransUnion that may carry different data. To catch an impostor applying for credit in your name you must check all three; many credit grantors request a credit report from only one agency.
 
Every 2 months I will order my credit reports from each of the three bureaus. In doing so, I will hopefully curtail the spending sprees of any future impostors and make it a hassle for them to target me.
 
If I were a non-victim, I would order all three reports at least twice a year. In doing so, I could catch an impostor potentially 6 months and $40,000 into a spending spree and the records would be fairly recent. This would make it easier to remove the fraudulent data from my record, although it would still be an arduous, expensive, and time-consuming process.
 
6) Cancel unused $0 balance credit cards and unnecessary lines of credit. Minimize the available credit on your cards; you can always raise it later by phone when needed.
 
7) Permanently make your name unavailable for approved offers of credit. For free, you can call the reporting agencies (listed above) to stop receiving pre-approved offers of credit.
 
8) If you believe you have no credit report, make frequent confirmations. High-dollar victimization THROUGH identity theft can readily befall a naive victim who believes that, having no credit cards or loans, one need not check. This includes children and senior citizens. There are listed cases of children who have bad credit reports because an impostor has been obtaining credit cards and bank accounts using the child's SSN.
 
9) Guard your wallet. Your wallet, if stolen, would command a high price for the information in it. Even if you cancel your driver's license number and all accounts, a person can take this identity information to a distant state and establish him/herself there using YOUR identity. You may not be contacted until bounced checks, large debts, and crimes occur.
 
10) Lobby for change. Currently, in California identity theft is a misdemeanor. In New York state it is a minor felony. Ralph Nader stated in The Privacy Rights Handbook: "Since the Privacy Act of 1974, intrusions on privacy have increased exponentially...yet the protections in law are no greater today than they were in the early 1970s." Voice your opinions to your representatives in government."
 
11) Educate. Make use of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse resources and spread the word. Discuss privacy and protection issues with your family and friends. Watch news programs concerning this issue.
 

Don't forget to check yourself!

InCase

1-888-84-CHECK
(888-842-4325)
incase@datesmart.com

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The greatest trick the devil ever played was
convincing the world he didn't exist.
- The Usual Suspects -

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