Monday, January 12, 2009

WC: Who Steals My Purse Steals Trash, But Who Steals My Identity Really Pisses Me Off

I got one of those robo-calls from my charge card yesterday. It sounded different from the others--maybe even authentically important--but I totally forgot about it.

Then today, I went on line to check my credit card balance and discovered that I had purchased three Delta flights to Atlanta. Except I hadn't.

So I called the 800 number on my charge card. I was eventually connected to a nice man with an Indian accent (duh) who kept trying to convince me that these were disputed charges rather than fraud. He wanted me to call Delta and ask why they had made these charges. I kept telling him that that was irrelevant, and he kept insisting. I finally thought to mention the phone call of yesterday, and he pressed some buttons and suddenly discovered that I had indeed been the victim of fraud.

So he transferred me to the fraud department where I spoke to a nice woman named Velma. (I hadn't known that Velma was an Indian name.) She was so used to taking fraud reports that she spoke at 1000 words a minute. With a thick Indian accent. I teach seminars on dealing with identity theft, and I couldn't tell what the heck she was talking about.

After asking her to repeat herself and slow down--about half a dozen times--we got the fraud report submitted. Then she started reading me instructions on what to do next. She read so fast that she sounded like that super-fast talker in the Fed Exp commercials. Only with a thick Indian accent.

I had already spent half an hour dealing with this, and I had just begun. I don't know what people who work on assembly lines do when their identities get stolen. I wouldn't be surprised if they have to take off from work just to make phone calls.

Next I went on line to the credit services. I started with Experian, which allows you to put a fraud alert on your credit report via the Net. So I filled out the form and pressed submit, and it told me that my address was missing. It wasn't. I put it in again and hit submit. It told me that my address was missing. It wasn't. I put it in again, with no commas or number sign and hit submit. It told me my address was missing.

I called Experian and got their automatic telephone fraud report machine. This worked pretty well except that the telephone voice rattled out my many-digit confirmation number out so fast that I thought it was competing with Velma. And it rattled it out once. Only once.

Then I decided to put in another report. Officially, once you've submitted a report to any of the three agencies, it has to share the report with the other two. But I don't trust other people/companies with something that is that important to me--and anyway, their website didn't inspire me with confidence--so I decided to submit a report to TransUnion.

I went on its website and found the fraud report form. (By the way, it wasn't particularly easy to find the form on either agency site.) I filled it out, pressed submit, and got a page full of code and error messages. Very reassuring, huh? At least when I called TransUnion, its machine voice said my confirmation number slowly and asked me if I wanted it to repeat it. I did.

I decided to then focus on informing companies that automatically bill my charge card that the account had been closed. Guess what? It was really hard to figure out how to get the info to some of them. Big surprise, huh?

At this point, my lunch hour was up and I was facing multiple deadlines, so I left the rest to deal with tonight. And now I'm going to do just that, feeling incredibly grateful that I have a computer at home, that I am literate, that I understand finance, that I can make phone calls from work--and feeling incredibly worried about people who are not as lucky as I am.

1 comment:

The Write Bunch said...

I had a similar experience. My cc company contacts me regularly to make sure that the many online and recurring charges are indeed authorized. This annoys me only slightly and not at all last week when one of the handful of charges they were checking ($6K of maternity clothes from a catalog) was not valid. They were cool, said they'd process that info. They also closed my account immediately. And said they'd transfer my balance (without the $6K purchase) and I'd get a new card in 3-4 biz days. Still waiting on that new card.

btw, I'm handling the direct payment mysteries by letting them notify me that my payment is late. :)
In some cases, this is welcome. Those are online subs to things I no longer use much (surveymonkey, for example which has thankfully been downgraded to the free service). In others, I only hope that I have my new card in time to plug in the number for say, my car insurance.

I guess I should call Experian too?

Can I have Velma's direct extension?