Monday, February 11, 2008

Who Wants To Be Me?

That's strange...a Macy’s bill? I cannot remember the last time I was at a Macy’s. Tearing open the envelope and expecting it to display around $30, which is the usual amount I would charge on the card, the account summary read: New balance = $657.68. Minimum payment due on July 9. Eyes widen taking in the numbers once more...$657.68. As I scroll down, the account details list three separate transactions all on June 14, 2006 at the White Plains store in New York. White Plains? I have never even been to White Pla...Oh my god...I’ve been robbed!

Luggage, Lauren bedding, Baby Phat, Girls 2-14 Furnishings…a list of items I have never purchased were now listed on my account. Immediately I contacted customer service at Macy’s to try to get this matter cleared up but instead, another nightmare was still to come.

After speaking to three different account representatives, I had learned that someone had visited the store in White Plains with a Massachusetts Driver’s License with my name on it. I have never lived in Massachusetts so Macy’s does not have a current or previous address for me there. Why was this driver’s license accepted? No response. Ironically, the bill still came to my Florida address. Guess Macy's didn’t update their computers with my "new" Massachusetts one. Not only was this accepted by Macy’s as valid proof of identification, since the person did not have my Macy’s card, but they allowed her to give an incorrect phone number AND year of birth! To add insult to injury, my new birth year was 1970. At least she could have made me younger, not 8 years older. This imposter also added a password on my account..."Chase". Some sense of humor!

Would have been slightly comforting to know that when the thief went back to the store on 6/27 to place a $1170.00 charge, that it wasn't just denied because it was over the credit limit but because I had already called and alerted them to them to the fraud. Not to mention, the perfect opportunity to catch and arrest this person. Instead, she escaped and vanished.

Livid at the complete disregard for my personal information, I was ready to wage war on Macy’s. They agreed after a 90-day investigation that it was their fault and would take the charges off of my account but that had little resolve for me. I wanted to make sure that this did not happen to anyone else, contacting numerous lawyers, my calls went unanswered. No one wanted to take the case, especially since it was under $1000 and Macy’s took the charge off. But this could happen to someone else since Macy’s obviously does not care about their customer’s safety. My rants feel on deaf ears. Even the police shrugged off my calls. Sure they filed a report and when I picked it up, I could see the traces of raspberry-filling smeared on it.

Trying to put aside my anger, I focused on future safeguards:

1. Pay cash at restaurants and any other stores/services where they take your credit card out of sight to run. Special hand-held devices can store all the card information if swiped or the person can simply write down the information.
2. Shred all bills and documents.
3. Do online banking...and shopping. Many credit card companies still list your credit card account number on each bill you receive. If a bill is misplaced or stolen in the mail, someone now has your name, address and credit card number. Not to mention, your credit limit. According to Javelin Strategy & Research, only 12 percent of identity theft occurs online while 63 percent could be traced to traditional retail shopping. The web addresses should start with https. When online, be wary of phishing through pop-ups or asking you to re-login or re-enter information.
4. Opt-out of preapproved credit offers. More information that can get misplaced in the mail. To opt out, call 888-567-8688. Do not let you bank share information about you with other financial institutions. Call your bank to make sure!
5. Make a photocopy (front and back) of all the cards you carry in your wallet and keep in a secure place. If your wallet is stolen, you have all the information you need to start calling the card companies and closing your accounts and if needed, reissuing new ones.
6. Make sure the credit cards you have offer a zero liability for fraud.
7. Never answer unsolicited phone or email messages about your accounts, even if they sound or look legitimate.
8. Do not disclose your social security number nor carry your card in your wallet. Doctor’s offices almost always ask for your social security number...why? THEY DO NOT NEED IT. They have your insurance information and that is all they need to file a claim.
9. Medical ID fraud accounts for 200,000 ID thefts a year. Protect your insurance card as carefully as your credit cards. Be selective about where you get care- avoid clinics that advertise free exams as they may just want to copy your health insurance information.

If you have been a victim of identity theft:

1. Contact the issuing card bureau of the theft. Make sure they open an investigation and close or freeze your account.
2. Go to ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/ to obtain a list of steps and important resource links.
3. File a police report. Not that anything usually comes from it but your creditors will need to see that you have taken this step. Anyone who has filed an identity theft report with a police agency can have a "security alert" placed on his/her credit bureau file for up to seven years.
4. Order a credit report a few times a year. You are even entitled to one annually from each of the three major credit-reporting agencies: Equifax, TransUnion and Experian.
5. File a report with the Federal Trade Commission (877-438-4338).
6. If mail has been stolen, alert your post office.

Approximately 9 million Americans will fall prey to identity thieves this year, and only one in 700 cases will be prosecuted. A risk-reward equation that suggests these kinds of criminals will keep multiplying.("'Tis The Season For ID Theft", Kadlec) Even with safeguards in place, companies that contain sensitive customer financial data can be pilfered by identity thieves. In early 2003, an intruder had gained access to a computer system containing the private records of customers, including credit and debit cards, check’s and driver’s license numbers for The TJX Companies. Unless you have all your money in a shoebox under your bed and pay cash for everything, you are at risk. Best bet is to always keep track of your statements before you find out that someone wants to be your clone!

Other helpful websites:
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse:
www.privacyrights.org
Identity Theft Resource Center:
www.idtheftcenter.org
Internet Crime Complaint Center:
www.ic3.gov


13 comments:

Karmen said...

wow. awesome entry. sorry you had to go through all of this bullshit tho :\
thats a great idea to photocopy the cards in your wallet. in fact im going to do that.

Anonymous said...

Bravo Beany,
I thought your rant was terrific with lots of valuable information. I'm sending it to all of my friends.
Love MOM

redshrt04 said...

that freakin sucks that it happened to you. My best friend got her identity stolen through paypal. Luckily i haven't had anything happen yet...not like there's much to steal, but your tips are really good. I'll have to think about it more often.

Joel said...

My wife had her card stolen on-line. We called the store and they told us WHERE the thief lived as the fool gave him his shipping address. Armed with this info -- we called the cops.

Thet didn't even want to take the report and the whole issue was dropped. It was too much trouble for them I guess...

Caoimhin said...

Wow what a hassle! Great post and thanks for the tips!

Sassy Molassy said...

Yikes! It seems like this is happening more and more. Scary what lengths we have to go to just to keep our finances safe.

GeorgeT said...

Excellent rant, I am so glad you have come through this relatively unscathed! It was really hard to concentrate on the article though. The whole idea that there could possibly be two of you running around... ;) j/k I do not mean to undermine the seriousness of this topic.

Psyched to see you writing again!

Deutlich said...

oh wow! that is NUTS. i'm sorry to hear you had to deal with that

zakstar said...

hey lady, where have you been?

I just forwarded this post to a friend who got mail about tuition due at Columbia University on her mother's social security number. . . No one is at Columbia right now. . .maybe they'll comp her a degree after it's all done with:)

Today's Rant said...

Another company to steer clear of...Rugby Imports! Horrible customer service. Companies must be crazy...especially in this economy!

Today's Rant said...

Macy's strikes again...

http://www.walletpop.com/article/_a/bbdp/some-macys-shoppers-overcharged/293502

Although not identity issue...have no regard for their customers.

Today's Rant said...

This is a great point about job seekers giving out vunerable information:

"Avoid any circumstance where a company asks for your Social Security number, bank account numbers, PIN, driver’s license number or other sensitive personal information up front. They may ask for this information in order to do a “background check” or in order to grant you access to parts of the company’s site. In reality, these are just tactics to get your personal information. Almost no company would hire you from your resume alone, sight unseen. Don’t let your excitement about a potential job opportunity cloud your good judgment. "

http://www.equifax.com/newsletter_archive/jul2009/#featuredarticle

Today's Rant said...

Check ALL charges on your statements:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/22/business/22digi.html?th&emc=th

Save receipts and even check your account online weekly, rather than wait for your statement to arrive.