Thursday, October 4, 2007

Fraud Alert

Identity theft is becoming a real issue these days. We have no idea how much of our personal information floats around in cyberspace. There's legitimate processing of our data, like doctors offices, or banks, or employers. Then there's the illegal scams, called "phishing." We've dealt with both types.

We were "phished" last year. Someone called from "XYZ" credit card company, we used that company at the time, claiming they needed personal information to confirm our security for an audit. It sounded kind of "phishy" to me. (Hee! Hee!) For the record, credit card companies DO NOT call you asking for information! I told the guy I couldn't give him the info he wanted and he got off the phone quick.

I then called "XYZ" credit card company to find out if they had in fact called me. Not only had they NOT called me, they didn't even have our current phone number on file. Their customer service then walked me through putting a "Fraud Alert" on the account.

"Fraud Alert" goes on your credit report for a certain period of time (I don't remember how long). It makes opening new lines of credit (credit cards, loans, mortgages) more difficult. It also alerts the specific account to watch for unusual activity.

In fact, a few months after this, "XYZ" credit card company did call me for a security check. We rarely used this card. We'd go months without using it. So a relatively small gas purchase triggered the company to call and make sure we were the ones using the card. I appreciated their watchfulness.

That is my experience with the illegal side. Now to the "legal" side of identity theft. Last week Joel's employer (a large national Informational Services company) informed us that a laptop had been stolen from an employee in Human Resources. An employee currently working on changes to the benefits and paycheck system. For testing purposes the personal information of many (we know at least hundreds and guess it's a lot more than that!) employees had been stored on the computer. Personal information like full names, addresses, phone numbers, SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBERS, birth dates. Even salaries!

The laptop was password protected but not encrypted. An over site that seems ridiculous for an Information Services company. Joel tells me if the thief is the least bit computer savvy he can pull the hard drive and easily access the information on there.

Joel's employer kindly offered (for FREE!) memberships to a credit monitoring service for a year. Needless to say, Joel signed up for the service and we will be watching his credit report closely this year. That's all we can do. Truth be told, I'm a little annoyed and frustrated by the whole thing.

Even if you don't need a fraud alert, you should check out once a year for your free credit report. It's always a good idea to make sure your credit report is accurate BEFORE you need to borrow money. Especially since it can take awhile to correct errors.


Julie said...

Oh, that's scary! We've had problems in the past with a relative who has the same name, but not our good credit. From time to time things will pop up on our credit report that belong to the relative. John now has a credit watch type thing to warn us when anything new shows up.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Scary! I was just thinking I needed to look at ours again. I'm thinking now I'm going to bump that up the priority list!!! Christie in nc

Anonymous said...

Question: Do you check on the kids ssn's regularly? I think I'm going to do that with the boys'. christie in nc

Stephanie said...

It has never crossed my mind to check my children's credit reports. Good idea!

mer said...

Scary, Stephanie! Thanks for the reminder to be ever-vigilant.

Anonymous said...

I just thought about it because doctors' offices require them, speech therapy and OT require them, and the early intervention program and local school require them. Ethan's list of specialists alone is a long list. There's always the chance they'd get in the wrong hands. I got our copy and found a mistake...called the credit card company we closed the account with more than a year ago and they said the account was closed properly with them (I had the letter from them saying they'd closed it on file). They said I should contact Transunion or Equifax or whichever one it was. I called them and they're resolving it. THANKS! :) Christie in nc

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