Sunday, March 25, 2007

Are You Who You Say You Are?

When I went through my mail, I recognized a credit card bill as the one I received when I had overdrawn my checking account. The Visa company usually covered my overdrawn check with a $100 deposit to my account, but as far as I knew I hadn’t overdrawn my account. To my surprise the bill was over $8,000, and more than 250 charges filled 11 pages of the credit card statement. A lump formed in my throat, and I couldn’t talk. I hadn’t showered or put on my makeup, but all I could say to my husband was, “I have to go to the bank,” and I left.

At the bank I discovered that someone used my ATM card number online, drained my checking account and charged the account that covered my overdrafts to its limit. Never once did anyone from my bank call me and report suspicious activity. Even though a bank statement was mailed to me after I had been to the bank with the words, “Suspicious activity” in bold letters, no one from the bank called me. It took me two hours to file eight different fraudulent claims on my account.

Because I responded within 30 days, the bank said I would be protected. They gave me a new ATM card and closed the old one. Yet fraudulent charges continued to happen. These were charges on the Internet that were previously approved, so they were transferred to my new ATM card number. A UPS account was set up in my name and packages were shipped all over the world. Purchases were made in my name and other names. Other accounts were established in my name and the bills were sent to me. I had to call each business and tell them that I was a victim of identity theft, and that I did not make these charges. I began to think it would never end. Actually it didn’t until I changed banks. I had to notify the credit agencies to flag my charges, and I couldn’t make any major purchases for six months.

I remember my frustration when I went through this whole experience. I remember the insecurity my husband and I felt. My only peace came from knowing that my true identity came from God. That was all that truly mattered. Whatever happened in this world was temporary. I focused my attention on the hope I have in Christ, and I trusted Him to get me through. The good news is that He did, and I know I can trust Him again and again. He promised He would never to leave us or forsake us, and I have found that He keeps His promises.

Even though my name has been cleared, this is an ongoing problem in our country and in the world. I have known people who have experienced identity theft more than once. The latest abuse is with healthcare insurance coverage.

It would make me feel good if I could help at least one person avoid the agony of identity theft. Here are tell-tale signs not to be taken lightly:
Strange e-mails from different parts of the world.
Strange mail from companies you don’t do business with.
Bills from companies you don’t recognize.
Bills from companies you do business with but have charges on your statement you didn’t make.

Although today companies are more careful about the use of confidential information, and the consumer is protected more than he/she has ever been, thieves are also craftier. My suggestion to you is to monitor your bank accounts and your charge accounts closely. Don’t depend on anyone or any company to do it for you.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Frightening indeed.

Sin is always lurking around ready to pounce and use an unrepentant sinner in it's quest to steal, kill and destroy others.

My son had his wallet stolen and id's used to purchase silly stuff like running up a bill at a secondhand comic book store, an emergency room visit in another state and other equally crazy things. It happened to him in his early twenties but it went undetected until he was married and buying his first home.

All of a sudden he was confronted with these reports on his credit.

That was almost 10 years ago.