One day several months ago I realized I’d forgotten my debit card pin, so I contacted the credit union and asked them to send me a new one by mail. I didn’t receive it; however, a few days later I noticed a fee charged to my account. When I called to find out why I was told a letter was returned to them. That letter with my new pin? The United States Postal Service thought they should forward that letter to an address three miles away where I have never lived or received mail. My credit union, however, doesn’t allow their mail to be forwarded, so the letter was returned to them and I was charged a five dollar fee. And that’s how it all began.
I had signed up for the USPS Daily Digest, an email service where they send you photocopies of the mail you’re supposed to receive each day, but for some reason it had stopped sending, so I signed up again. This is how I learned that my mail was being forwarded to another address, and later that my mail was being addressed to me there.
I tried contacting USPS to rectify the situation. I called the local office and spoke with a supervisor who said they’d start hand sorting my mail (they didn’t). I emailed Customer Service and their response was because a mail forward request was made, I should have the person who made it rescind it. I also filed a mail fraud complaint because now that I was receiving Informed Delivery emails again I knew I wasn’t receiving my mail.
One of those letter-senders was Wells-Fargo, who’d issued me an American Express Card a couple of months prior and for some reason decided I’d changed my mailing address and updated my account without informing me they’d done so. I called Wells-Fargo several times about the problem and each time I was assured the situation was fixed, then a couple weeks later I’d check and, lo and behold, they’d changed my mailing address again. I ended up cancelling that card. In all, eight credit card accounts changed my mailing address without my knowledge or consent.
My employer has an awesome Employee Assistance Program, so I called and was connected with a Credit Counselor/Certified Identity Theft Risk Management Specialist. This person told me I was most likely a victim of identity theft and I needed to take some immediate steps to protect myself.
I requested a copy of my credit report from each of the three reporting agencies and found the forwarding address was showing up there too. I put a freeze on my credit with all three, meaning anyone trying to open credit in my name would be thwarted. I closed several credit cards that were paid off and I didn’t use; as a result, my credit score plummeted, but oh well. I filed a report with ChexSystems, so if a bank account was opened in my name the bank would be alerted to possible fraud.
Still, the problem persisted, mainly because USPS didn’t stop reporting my address as having changed. My utility company mailed a utility bill to me at that address. The wellness program associated with my health insurance provider sent mailers to me at that address. And good luck trying to get anyone to do anything about it. I spent hours on the phone with companies only to be told that they had no record of having changed my mailing address (even though I was sitting there with photocopies of the mail right in front of me) and there was nothing they could do about it. But if anything was actually stolen, I should be sure to call them back.
I was concerned a fraudulent tax form would be filed to steal my refund, but guess who isn’t getting a refund this year? Yep, this woman! Seriously, though, that happens, a lot, so any year you expect a tax refund you should file as soon as possible.
Once I’d had enough of all this nonsense, I went for the jugular. I contacted the office of my US Senator (the one who isn’t an idiot) and asked his staff to look into my problem with USPS for me. If you ever have a problem with a government or quasi-government agency, that is the way to go. Suddenly a problem I’d been complaining to USPS about for months was solved in a flash! Wish I could have the senator’s staff look into Wells-Fargo, because even though I closed that AMEX credit card account in January, they’re still sending me notifications about it. Ironically, they also hold my vehicle loan and never once was anything on that account changed. If you ever think you’re a victim of credit fraud, the FIRST thing you should do is close all credit card accounts managed by Wells-Fargo. Just saying.
The worst thing about identity theft is you may find that the person who stole your identity is known to you. Up to a quarter of identity theft cases involve someone the victim knows, and it’s often a family member. After all, who knows your social security number? Your mother’s maiden name? The street you grew up on?
If your family is as dysfunctional as mine is, it means more rifts in already fragile relationships. The person suspected of instigating all this is a pro at playing the victim role and likely had a field day dragging me through the mud. I knew that would happen but still went public with my accusations because it was the most efficient way to deal with it and stop it in its tracks. Since then most of of my family have cut ties with me or me them. Not that it was a big loss; who needs negative people like that in your life? Besides, I thought they’d drown from looking down their noses at me so much.
Some other folks I know also judged me a whiny little shit without knowing the whole story. Remember these words: It’s easier to believe someone is crazy than the victim of character assassination. If you think things are nasty now, wait until my memoir is written. They’ll all shit bricks then.
If you suspect something is up and you could possibly be a victim of identity theft, my best advice is to not wait. Talk to a fraud specialist right away; they will help you move from “Something ain’t right,” to “Holy fuck! Are you kidding me?” and tell you what you need to do.
If family or friends are involved, expect fallout. But what’s more important, making sure people who really don’t care about you still like you, or taking care of yourself? Do what you need to do for you, and do it quickly.
I hope you never have to deal with anything like this.
(Clip art from clipart-library.com)