27 Responses to It Finally Happened – I Got Hit by Identity Theft

  1. Hi Kevin. Yes, we have been hit also. It was several years ago. We get a phone call at home from Sears Security Department asking if we bought a camera. At first I thought it was a prank call, and I was about to hang up. But the person kept talking and I listened. They told me to check my bank accounts and then left their number for me to call back. I did so and found various fraudulent charges, dating services, Zappos shoes, Sears, and a few other places. I called Sears back and we discussed things. They credited my account right away. Zappos was actually wonderful to deal with, and they explained some things to me about how they could tell the charge was fraud. I called my bank and reported everything, and yes it took quite some time to get it all resolved, and we did all of the things you outlined above. Yes, my money was all refunded, but it took time, and it was over $800.00 of charges. I was out that money until the bank could do all of their research. And sadly, the person who said “this is the world we live in” was absolutely correct. I was recently speaking with someone who is a financial advisor (not ours), and she said that if people handle their finances properly, it equates to a part-time job! She agreed that no one has time to do all the things that need to be done, and that’s partly why this stuff happens. Criminals know this. They’re banking (no pun intended) on the fact that you won’t even look at your statements until at least several weeks out at the soonest. Everything is online now, which makes it even easier to check accounts, but who has the time!! Ever since that happened, I monitor all of our accounts regularly, checking all bank balances daily. It was a sickening feeling when this happened, but then I’ve also had my house robbed many, many years ago when we were young. That was awful, too. Anyway, no you are not a bad Christian (is that supposed to be capitalized??) You are a person who was robbed, and you’re reaction is very normal. You a human being trying to function in a not-so-normal world anymore. Your writing about it and people sharing their own stories will help you deal with all of this, as it will help others as we read your blog and know that we’re not alone out there. Thanks for sharing and best of luck straightening it out.

  2. Thanks for the perspective Bev. $800 is about 20 times more serious than the $39 I’ll be out temporarily. In the end this is a learning experience more than anything else. Bad things are going to happen, and there’s not much we can do about it. I love what your financial planner friend said about it being a part-time job to handle finances properly. That’s very true, and when I write about finances on this site, it’s one of the factors I try to take into consideration. Most of us don’t have time to manage our finances in the way they should be managed, so it’s an inherent limitation. The proof is that wealthy people hire professionals to manage their money. The rest of us can’t afford that luxury so we muddle through as best we can. I monitor all of my accounts almost daily, but this still happened.

    Years ago my wife and I applied for a mortgage with the mortgage company we both worked for. They were SUPPOSED to appoint ONE person to handle our file for privacy sake. By my count, it passed through the hands of eight different people. Any one of them had an opportunity to examine our financial situation, and carry out a theft. Luckily it didn’t happen. But when your information passes through that many hands, security breaches are inevitable. We can do all we can to protect our identities on our end, but once information is released, there’s no telling where it goes. Our mortgage experience gave us a chance to see first hand how information passes through systems, and how secure it isn’t.

    A friend of mine who worked in IT for a time told me flat out that our information is NOT secure, and there’s no way it could be. He didn’t lie or exaggerate. The institutions do a pretty good job of implementing processes to prevent theft and fraud, but they stop short of admitting that it’s an impossible task. The best they can do is do what they can, and put out reassuring statements to make us feel secure about the process. Reality, as it usually does, takes its own course.

  3. What is it about Thanksgiving that creates these situations? Last Thanksgiving we got a call from our credit card company asking if two duplicate charges made in the Netherlands were ours. We closed the account right then and were issued a new card. I’m so very thankful that from all appearances, that was all there was to it. But news of the hack at the credit reporting bureau (Experian?) is troublesome because you just know that your number is floating around out there. I’m sorry you had to go through this also.

  4. Hi Kathy – I hadn’t thought about the Thanksgiving connection, but you may be onto something there. My wife works at a mall jewelry store and from the Friday before Thanksgiving through the Saturday after, it was a literal crush of humanity. No parking and people shoulder to shoulder and often standing in long lines. The dramatic increase in transactions probably feeds into theft. Plus we all have our guard down in the holiday crush, so we’re not as on top of things as we should be.

    The Equifax breach was one of the first things I thought about, and may have been a primary source my panic. One seemingly minor theft could be the beginning of an outright identity heist. I’m just glad I’m in the habit of actually paying attention to my account activity on a daily basis. If too much time passes after the theft, the institutions aren’t as accommodating as they are when you alert them within 24-48 hours.

    Pleased don’t be sorry for me. In the grand scheme of things, this is incredibly minor. My main purpose in writing about it is to alert others that this isn’t just something we hear on the news. (And of course, as a writer, I vent through writing – it’s one of the fringe benefits of the trade!)

  5. I also deal with Pay Pal as I got the account when I tried the “secret shopper” route, since they only paid via Pay Pal. They, Pay Pal, are very helpful in reaction time when you dispute claims.
    The problem is that hackers are much more dilligent into getting into our funds then we are in tracking how we spend our funds. I am leery of those apps that “help track” how you spend your money dispite their claim to be secure. Today nothing is hack proof, especially after the Equifax hack. I am glad I don’t use Uber, either.
    I make it a point to check my bank account daily with the online access and all my credit accounts weekly. I have alerts set to notify me if any transactions occur over $10 just to keep close track. I have double sign in tactics, not just password but a special code received via text.
    It is a pain to do this but especiall with the holidays here, we need to be diligent. I don’t carry my cards with me and if I have to I surround card with a RDIF cover. Every card reader, even at my own bank, I check for a scanner reader that shouldn’t be there. I removed any credit card on file on sites unless I make a purchase.
    Debit cards atached to accounts are especially vulnerable which is why I check my bank account so often, But even with my diligence, there have been times, I have been hit. Luckily the bank I have (Citibank) works immediately to block access to debit card and gives me a new one, and also refunds me my finds after their research period. That so-called chip card does make it harder to use cards for immediate process which helps in checking transactions on any card use. Like getting charged for something in a place you are not present or ones where you are present. I caught an illegal transaction from Steamgames on my account and was able to stop it from processing.
    But criminals will be criminals and we need to be vigilant, as they are out there.

  6. I agree with you Maria, the criminals are always one step ahead. It’s ironic that the card that got hit IS a chip card. So this shows that no system is failsafe. We just have to keep an eye on everything, and hope to catch breaches early. It makes a strong case to spread your money around too. You never want it all sitting in the same account. It starts to look like paranoia after a while, but that’s where were at.

  7. LOL
    I’m not laughing at the identity theft. It’s a serious thing. However, what I am laughing at is the christian reaction. If that doesn’t sum up myself also I don’t know what does.

    As you can imagine being in law enforcement for 25 years. I was a so called christian the whole time. I can tell you once I was on duty that went out the window. In 25 year’s I was never christ like on the job. It was impossible for me.
    I used to sit in church on Sunday after a brutal week of so called legal thugery. That’s what I call it. I would think to myself I am the last guy who should be sitting here.

    It’s easy for me now. Once I retired and started working for myself. I’m not confronted with that on a daily basis.

    So ya, LOL. I can relate brother.

  8. Thanks for the encouragement Tim. I’ve often wondered how people in law enforcement reconcile their work with faith. It’s an occupation that puts you into conflict with both ordinary citizens and thugs, and how do you bring faith into that and still be effective in your job? I like the term “legal thuggery”. It seems to increasingly describe law enforcement in recent years.

    For what it’s worth, I had a similar conflict when I was in the mortgage business. It’s amazing how people are perfectly willing to lie to get a mortgage. Homeownership is considered to be such a revered “virtue” that it’s acceptable to lie to get it. Then there were the real estate agents – don’t talk to them about rules and guidelines, they don’t want you “killing their deal”. It was tough to balance faith with doing my job effectively. I did the best I could, and avoided anything blatant, knowing that it was a tough business to be in. I lost income too, because I wouldn’t do “anything” to get a loan through (there was always a competitor willing to take any deals that didn’t make sense or involved generous fibbing).

    Many nights I wrestled with that career. The demons went away when I finally exited.

  9. Those tactics you mentioned by unscrupulous real estate agents is what made me very hesitant about signing on for a mortgage because of the push to sign without reading all the lines of the contract. I would pay the house inspector and find problems not willing to be discussed ( like termite damage and roof damage) or when reading the contract see that mortgage will balloon up 5 years after starting loan rather than stay the same for life of the mortgage loan.
    Again it is up to the consumer to be wise to tricks being played. I compare it to playing cards— a good player pays attention to details. Maybe I should put it as trying to survive a Zombie Invasion like the Walking Dead or Fear The Dead. If you don’t pay attention you lose.

  10. There is a process in sales – I don’t know if it even has a name – where the salesperson does everything possible to move the buyer to the closing table. Problems are either ignored or minimized, and the emphasis is always on moving forward. If that means getting appraisers and home inspectors to change outcomes and language, then so be it. This often puts buyers into compromise positions, but only after the closing. At that point, builders and real estate agents are no longer available.

    There was another process that I saw play out again and again, it was gut wrenching. What made it worse was when the buyers happily cooperated. And believe me, that was the more common outcome. They were like lambs to the slaughter, ignoring all the problems along the way. There’s not much you can do about it, but it’s very unsettling to watch the process play out. And because it successful, it’s done all the time.

  11. It is probably like that with most jobs.

    They don’t Kevin. There is no reconciling of anything. I would never get into writing it down on here. It is one of the worst jobs out there.

    I tell every young person I can that is considering this field. You cannot have any moral compass and expect to have any success on the job.
    No emotions, No feelings.
    If feel you can’t do that then don’t go into the field. Of course it was too late for me. I already had a family and bills by the time I figured it out.

    The problem is, it carries over into your daily life. You become a totally dysfunctional person. You don’t see it though. Everybody else does.

    That is why their are so many alcoholics , divorces , suicides. We had a few over the years.
    So when I see it on TV I do understand it. If you had the job you would know. I am not excusing it but I do understand it. These guys are so wired. It comes from fear and constant conflict. I walked around like that for 25 years.

    I’m getting off topic. Just wanted to encourage you. Your not alone. The human condition is tough to deal with.

  12. None of that’s hard to imagine Tim. I think one of the risks for a cop is that you never look at people the same again. You become suspicious even in the most innocent situations. It’s not a career I’ve ever considered. But my son has, and my wife and I have done our best to talk him out of it. It’s not just the danger of the job, but the way it can rearrange your mind. What worries me to are the types who are attracted to the job. Some of them seem to like it a little bit too much.

  13. I sell on Ebay. Don’t believe this is done but hopefully, it is.
    They stole $$ from my account months after a transation I had WITH MY COUSIN. Why she bought from me online when I requested her not to is beyond me. Easier I guess but I paid the fees.

    Many months later they told me she disputed the charges. This is a lie. She has a vaction home in Hawaii and runs a billion dollar company. Prior there was a discrepancy of them stealing money from my account WHEN NO DISPUTE WAS EVER FILED. I contacted the buyer months later and they said “I don’t recall, nor do I know how, to file a dispute. I hardly ever buy from ebay and have never had a bad experience” it was a physician.

    Paypal is the dirtiest company around. They refused to listen to me when I gave them phone numbers and even cell phones, of the buyers I supposedly had an issue with. No notice was ever given that the amount was disputed months later by their credit card. I continued to sell but only because we need the money. Not many options born with many invisible disabilities but I refuse to go on SSDI being on the doles when I can still work. And probably always will be able to.

    please do what you can, if it is feasible, to get out from under paypal. It might be better FOR ME now, they are no longer owned by EBAY. So my situation may never be akin to yours. Just a warning to please follow up Kevin. And thank you for your website, I really enjoy it. It’s helped me a ton

  14. Kevin I just want to add I don’think Paypal expected me to notice the discrepancy. I was looking thru my account history then paired it with sales. My Cousin and a Physician didn’t lie to me. Sales were for under $20 in which both, received working items.

  15. Hi Marie – Your comments made me follow up with PayPal and so far nothing has happened. I did get notification that the payment has finally cleared, which the told me would happen. But the account credit has not yet been issued. They said that it would take 24 hours. I’ll know by about 4:30 tomorrow afternoon. I hope this works out. I don’t dispute what you’re saying about PayPal, but it’s been good for me for 13 years. But maybe I need to investigate an alternative source, just in case it becomes necessary. I have heard some horror stories about PP.

  16. We always had this kinda of joke between us. The guys that came in like that we’re usually picked on in high school or had no friends or had little respect in life to begin with.
    All of a sudden they have a badge and a little power and they run amok. It goes to their heads quick.

    They never last a career. They usually end up getting someone hurt or they do something stupid and loose the job.

    The young guys we’re really the guys who drove me out of the job. They had zero people skills and very little common sense. There are a ton of guys running around like that. The scary thing is they have guns. You couldn’t talk to them either. They knew everything.

    The younger generation was just different. I kept my mouth shut for 5 years. It is not like that anymore.

  17. My brother-in-law’s brother-in-law is a retired cop and he told me a similar story to yours. He said the guys that are coming up now are young bucks, often out of the military, and by-the-book, no-nonsense types who take the job very seriously. I know that a lot of people hang on the mantra that “we can’t tie the hands of the police”, and the courts have been upholding this doctrine. But my feeling is that a free society MUST limit the power of the police. After all, they’re the ones with the guns, and the power to ruin lives! A person who has a gun is potentially dangerous regardless of which side of the law he’s on, and must be limited. We’re getting too many situations where the police are using deadly force with no consequences. It isn’t just blacks getting shot or beat up, but those are the cases that draw the most attention. This is an interesting article on the subject. It exposes the heavy handedness of law enforcement from the inside.

    We getting way off topic here, so let’s move future comments on this subject to email. It’s obvious we both have strong opinions on this, though we seem to be in agreement.

  18. I am more than happy to have any conversation Kevin on any topic through E mail. I have strong opinions on a lot of topics.
    Yes we are in agreement for the most part. I do see the other side because I have been there. I try and stick to the topic at hand but it seems to always mushroom into other conversations.

    I’m not sure of your e mail. Feel free to send me one on any topic. I learn things also. The business you we’re in. I didn’t realize some of the things you said about it.

  19. My grandmother was fond of the saying “there’s a trick in every trade”. You don’t hear that saying repeated much in our let’s-pretend world. But having been in several different occupations I now know it to be certifiably true. There’s a reason for old sayings, and it’s that they’re true. Today’s “more sophisticated” population wants to believe that they’re cliches or old wives tales. It’s amazing the lengths contemporary society goes to try to rewrite history and ignore truth.

  20. I had my identity stolen about 10 years ago through mail theft. The thieves managed to get the routing and account numbers from my checking account and actually had checks printed up with my bank account numbers and phony name and address on the heading. They spread nearly $10,000 in bad checks in just a couple of days.

    It was my bank that actually caught the fraud and notified me. Of course the account was closed immediately.

    I spent nearly a year cleaning up that mess, police reports, etc.

    The victim of identity theft is responsible for fixing the problem that criminals create as the US Congress has taken almost no action to protect victims of identity theft or to impose serious penalties for failure of institutions to protect customer data.

    There has been willful and intentional neglect on the part of US government to criminalize and enforce penalties for data theft and identity theft committed on the citizenry. In fact some police departments (Oakland) won’t even bother to investigate cases of identity theft.

    It’s going to get much much worse. When we returned to the US from a trip to south America this year, we were greeted by automated passport control kiosks on which we scanned our passports and then the machine took a retina/iris scan and a photograph. Just wait till that data gets hacked. Not only will the thieves be stealing your money they’ll get your biometrics too.

    The US government has not only abrogated their power to protect the citizens from such crimes, they are part and parcel of the problem.

  21. Hi Marissa – Your experience is the reason that I hardly ever pay by check any more – not even gifts to relatives. There’s too much information on a single check to risk letting it fall into the wrong hands. I agree, The System isn’t protecting our identities. It can’t, and it doesn’t want to. The System wants to make sure our lives are an open book, so that they too can know every detail about us. That makes it easier for thieves to get the information too. I expect no help from “the law” on this. As I frequently write, we’re on our own.

    It’s a fantasy to think that the US government is going to protect us or ever fix a problem. People keep voting them more power, and calling for them to “do something” about this or that problem, and all they do is use it to grow in size and power. People don’t get that increased power means the state has an easier time controlling the law abiding, but is no better at dealing with the criminal element. It’s also not surprising since most government action is to increase the power of the big corporations and banks, so they don’t want to inconvenience them in any way. Nothing has been done about the Equifax breach and nothing will. There’s an excellent example of how we’re forced to participate in an information gathering scheme that we have no right to opt out of.

    Your point about getting our biometrics is downright scary, and not something I ever considered. That’s a nightmare waiting to happen, because if our biometrics are hacked, we can’t create new ones. Wow…

    All that said, I did read an article yesterday from a trusted source that said that the rising blockchain technology (like Bitcoin and Etherium) will put an end to identity theft. If it does, score one for the private sector. We’ll have to see how it plays out. If things get much worse with these identity breaches, we might all be forced to go off the grid, at least as far as payment methods. It’s ridiculous that we have such risks just in paying our bills.

  22. My social security number was compromised by a utility company data breach back in 2008. Shortly afterward, I had my first issues with identity theft when someone filed a false tax return. Since that time, I have had issues with someone opening multiple credit card accounts, additional false tax returns and theft from multiple bank accounts. The bank accounts alone have been hit for a total of several hundred thousand dollars over the last four years. The above advice about having more than one bank account is one of the best recommendations. I have had two occasions where a bank account was drained in a matter of hours while traveling on business and it was good to have another account to pull from, when the breached account was frozen.

  23. That’s certainly understandable. It would be complicated even if you have a simple financial situation, since it involves transferring your income history over to the new number.

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