This week is “National Protect Your Identity Week” so I thought I would share my experience with having my identity stolen.
My identity was stolen back in 2001. I was alerted to this when my credit card company called and asked if I had applied for another card with a Las Vegas address. I hadn’t and they advised me that someone had applied for credit using my information and that I should contact the credit bureaus. Say what you will about Capital One’s customer service in this case they were on the ball.
I’m not sure how the id thief got my information. I lived in Las Vegas until early 2000 and I had just visited there in the summer of 2001 a month or two before my identity was stolen. I know I didn’t bring my social security card when I visited Las Vegas and I don’t remember giving it out for any reason. Even then I was very cautious about revealing my social security number. It is possible that someone got my information when I was living in Vegas and just waited to use it. Homeless people often went through the trash at my apartment complex and one of my jobs put everyone’s SSN right on the sign-in sheet. The timing of the thief applying for credit right after I had visited makes me think it had something to do with my visit though.
Contacting the credit bureaus and getting a copy of my credit report and putting a fraud alert on my credit file was not that difficult. I remember having to wait on hold a long time but I did always get through to an actual person who was able to help me eventually. I think I had a special number to dial because I tried to contact a credit bureau recently and it was impossible to get hold of a live person.
The consequences of having my identity stolen wasn’t that bad. I just had to spend a couple hours on the phone with the credit bureaus and review my credit reports. The biggest hassle was the fraud alert was only supposed to last ninety days but at least one of the bureaus never cancelled it. This results in me occasionally having to provide extra verification of who I am. Usually this is only a small hassle although sometimes companies don’t bother telling me they need extra verification and just deny me credit. This is resolved with a phone call but it is an additional PITA. I was lucky, my experience would have likely been much worse if it weren’t for the fact that it was caught quickly and my credit at that time was rather poor resulting in the thieves’ credit applications being denied.
I’m even more careful with my information today.