TREASURE ISLAND - COINS AND PRECIOUS METALS
I thought it would never happen to me. But it did -- a second time. And a third time.
Perpetrators stole my identity and used it to commit fraud.
My first experience occurred in the spring of 2010. In response to the theft of my identity I opened accounts with the three major credit rating agencies and cleaned up the mess. Afterwards, I froze the three accounts to prevent other attempts to open credit card and banks accounts fraudulently using my identity.
What constitutes an identity? As a minimum a name associated with a social security number and a birth date easily identify a person. An address, place of birth and mother’s maiden name, though not necessary, help seal the deal.
The latest incidents occurred this spring circumventing my credit rating accounts. Here’s how it went down.
On March 8, 2012, I received a legitimate form letter from the Social Security Administration (SSA). The letter confirmed that I had redirected my direct deposit social security check from my legitimate bank to a different bank in another state. Of course, I had not. My stolen identity was used fraudulently to commit a crime. The letter was so low-key it did not perk my interest at first. Then, in a classic double take, it dawned on me. This was a confirmation notice. I immediately contacted the Minot, ND, SSA office and they confirmed my monthly check had indeed been redirected to a different bank.
Within minutes the fraud became evident, the fraudulent redirection of my check was stopped, an “identity theft victim” tag was placed on my file and a password assigned to preclude any further unauthorized changes to my account.
I then filed a local police report. This is highly recommended for a couple of reasons. First, any further action on my part would have to be substantiated and a police report could be included as evidence. Second, the identity theft can be matched against other criteria in law enforcement databases in an attempt to catch the perpetrator.
Finally, I filed a fraud report with the SSA. But, that’s not the end of the story. There is more.
On April 6, 2012, my tax accountant attempted to file my TY 2011 federal tax return electronically only to have it rejected by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). It seems someone had already filed a return using my identity to fraudulently claim my refund. The IRS immediately noted anomalies in the fraudulent return and froze my account without issuing a refund pending resolution of the matter.
When notified by my tax accountant, my wife and I immediately headed to Minot, picked up the hard copy of the unfiled return and took it to the Minot IRS office as instructed. To prove our identity we had to produce two forms of photo identification, our original social security cards and our passports. Once properly identified, the IRS agent was able to unfreeze the account and personally mail copies of our identification together with our tax return to the appropriate IRS center. He then filed a fraud report on our behalf. For enhanced security, he also applied for a personal identification number (PIN) for use with our TY 2012 taxes.
Unfortunately, there is no collaboration between the three credit rating agencies and federal agencies. Consequently, no fraud alert came from the credit agencies.
Through my own initiative and with the help of a certain bank, I have been able to pinpoint a physical address, phone number and e-mail address of the suspected perpetrator. I included that information in my fraud reports to the SSA and the IRS.
How is a person’s identity stolen? In my case I can think of several ways. Theft of computers containing data come to mind. Loss of computers by the Veterans Administration, stolen computers in possession of contractors containing military medical records and successful hacking of federal and civilian databases result in stolen identity. Of course, living in oil country, I wouldn’t be surprised if criminals possessing stolen identities are focusing on zip codes in North Dakota.
I have concluded the following. First, I will never retrieve my original identity. It’s gone forever. Second, my identity is being bought and sold as would any commodity.
At this point I have alerted every institution with which I have critical transactions including the SSA, IRS, Department of Defense, Veterans Administration, financial institutions and the North Dakota Department of Revenue and Attorney General’s Office to the fact that I have been a victim of identity theft and that fraud has been perpetrated using my identity. In other words, I have attempted to close off every avenue of approach through which a perpetrator might gain access to my finances and government records.
The age of innocence has passed and vigilance is key. For safety’s sake, being constantly aware of what is taking place around us is critical.