So last week I’m sitting at my desk at work and my phone rings. J, one of our lovely HR folks, is on the line.
Mrs PoP: [Mrs. PoP] here.
J: Oh good, you’re there… So you clearly still work for [Our Employer], right?
Mrs. PoP: If I didn’t then I wouldn’t be here!
J: Then I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news. Someone filed for unemployment benefits in your name… With your social security number.
Mrs. PoP: Well, crud. That can’t be good.
My Identity Was Stolen
Since I definitely hadn’t filed for unemployment benefits, it was pretty obvious that someone had my name and SSN and was trying to use them for nefarious purposes. So, I needed to do some damage assessment and control.
Here are the steps I have taken so far:
1. Put Fraud Alerts On Both of Our Credit Reports. You can call Experian, TransUnion, or Equifax to initiate a 90-day fraud alert if you think you’ve been a victim of identity theft. No need to call all three. They share fraud alert information, so your request is immediately passed to the other two credit bureaus.
To put a fraud alert on your file, use any of the below contact info.
- Equifax: 1-877-576-5734; www.alerts.equifax.com
- Experian: 1-888-397-3742; www.experian.com/fraud
- TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289; www.transunion.com
2. I pulled all 3 of my full credit reports. I used www.annualcreditreport.com and pulled all three of my credit reports at once. It had been at least a year since I pulled them, so I used up all of my free report pulls for the next 12 months, but I wanted to make sure there were no funny inquiries on any of the reports. There weren’t. Thank goodness.
3. I called the Unemployment Benefits agency in Florida that the fraudster had filed with and told them that the person requesting unemployment benefits in my name was not me. I asked them for any information that the fraudster had given as a part of their application that I could keep for my files. The nice lady made my day. She gave me the fraudster’s HOME ADDRESS.
Now that I knew my credit reports were locked down, and there was no funny business on them, I could appreciate the hilarity of the fact that the idiots didn’t use a PO Box or anything more anonymous when fraudulently filing for unemployment benefits. So I did what any nosy person with access to the internet does. I looked them up!
4. I google mapped the fraudster’s home. Dude lives on a canal. And has a pool. Which, by the looks of it, is bigger than our pool. Then I started poking around the property records database for that county and figured out that the fraudster’s home address is in fact a rental property. I jotted down his landlord’s name and address for my files… just in case.
If this dude lived anywhere near me it would have been tempting to drive by the house and play Columbo. Good excuse to buy a trenchcoat, right? (f you don’t know who Columbo is, please watch this video for a much needed education.)
But as it turns out, our fraudster is living a couple of hours drive from the PoPs, so it wasn’t worth wasting the gas on him. Heck, I was already wasting enough of my time on this as it was.
With my curiosity about the fraudster slightly sated, I had more work to do.
5. Called the Social Security Agency. I needed to confirm that no one was using my SSN to work illegally, or trying to claim any benefits. I also set up an account with the social security agency online that will allow me to continue to monitor my work history on an ongoing basis since they’re not mailing statements out any longer.
6. Called the sheriff’s office and filed a police report. I chose to call our local sheriff’s office, but since I had the address of where the crime was actually committed I could have called over there as well. I was able to fill out a police report with an awesome officer over the phone. Why she needed to know my height and hair/eye color I’m not sure, but it was easy enough. I gave Officer Awesome all the information I had on the fraudster, including the address the fraudster had given when requesting unemployment and the name and address of the owner of that house.
She said the basic procedure is that she sends this over to the sheriff’s department where the fraudster lives. Then it’ll get assigned to someone over there, and I’ll probably have to follow-up in about a week and make sure that they actually act on this information.
Officer Awesome also added to my list of places to contact. Yay.
7. Filled out form 14039 with the IRS. The IRS page on identity theft is actually a bit useful, unlike many of the others I ran across. Form 14039 is an Identity Theft Affadavit. This is only after the police report since they require the police report number as part of the affadavit. I faxed it in, and have yet to hear anything back on it. But I assume this will prevent someone else from trying to file taxes in my name and snatching all the extra witholdings I have set aside to cover the taxes on the rental income from our duplex.
8. Filled out a complaint form with the FTC. Honestly, I’m not 100% sure WHY I did this other than Officer Awesome said I should. The FTC complaint site is here. It was also very satisfying to check the box that says “Yes” next to the question as to whether I’d press charges against the fraudster. Heck yeah I’d press charges! Catch that dude(tte)!
9. Called my banks/financial institutions to let them know. There’s not a whole lot they can do, since the accounts are already password protected, but they did make a note on the account to request additional verification if anyone is requesting additional cards or anything silly like that.
And that’s where I’m at. I’m still in the waiting stage to see if anything is going to happen in terms of the other sheriff’s office catching the fraudster. And I have high hopes of appearing in court as a damaged victim.
Ironically, I’ve only recently taken an interest in my credit report/ratings and had signed up for the free credit monitoring service at Credit Sesame just a few weeks before this took place. I’d also signed Mr. PoP up for free credit score monitoring from our fabulous credit union (PSECU), a benefit that’s apparently been offered for a while but we had never taken advantage of. FWIW, I have no reason to believe any of those recent actions led to the fraudster getting my info.
At the risk of speaking to soon, I think I’m quite lucky so far. There is no damage to my credit, and so far I’ve incurred no costs other than my time. There have been no fraudulent purchases in my name, and my 90-day fraud alert on my credit report will likely transition to a 7-year fraud alert on my credit report pending the outcome of the investigation. (That’ll require some more forms and calls to the credit unions, but should be pretty straightforward with the paper trail I’ve established so far.)
Unlike the past several years when we purchased 3 properties, took out loans, bought a car, refinanced our house, and all sorts of other exciting financial stuff, we didn’t have any plans like that for this year. So in an odd way, the fraudster chose a good time to be an inconvenience to the PoPs.
Hopefully I’m not being too optimistic since this isn’t 100% resolved yet. But so far the only plan the fraudster is hindering was my tentative plan to try and churn some credit cards for sign-up bonuses to boost the holiday spending money this year. (Hence why I had taken a recent interest in tracking our credit reports and scores more closely…) Alas, not doing so is a small price to pay for increased peace of mind.
Have you ever had your identity stolen? What happened? Are there any other steps that you think I have missed in terms of locking down all of my information from fraudsters?