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Secrets of Success

That’s Not Me!

This month’s article is a little late.
I’ve been a tad distracted.
It started a couple of weeks ago.
I had returned from a business trip and was opening the mail.
In the mail was a letter from the Customer Care Center confirming my enrollment in a
Card Security Program covering my PayPal Extras MasterCard.
It’s a service that pays my MasterCard bill in the event I am out of work, disabled, etc.
It’s a great idea but there was one problem.
All my credit cards are Visa cards.
I called the customer service hotline and was instructed to call the MasterCard people.
I explained I did not have a MasterCard at which point I learned that on August 20 someone
with my name, my address and phone number, my date of birth and my complete
social security number had opened a charge account.
“That’s not me!” I shouted.
I had become a victim of identity theft.

And there, as they say, our story begins.

What To Do

I want to make some lemonade out of these lemons by sharing what I’ve learned.
If you are a victim, the first thing you need to do is to try not to panic.
It’s easy to feel angry and helpless, but it’s counterproductive.
You will have some important jobs to do, so you’ll need to get focused and get to work.

The first thing I did was to get the MasterCard people to put what is called
a “permanent limit” on the card.
The account is not technically closed until they complete their own internal investigation
but the bad guys can’t use the card anymore, so as far as they are concerned the credit card
is as good as cancelled.

The next calls I made were to the three credit bureaus to alert them of the theft and have a
90-Day Fraud Alert placed on each account.
The Fraud Alert tells them to make sure they contact you if anyone attempts to open
any line of credit on your account during a 90-day period.
If you can provide proof you’ve been a victim of identity theft, you can have
this alert extended to seven years.

The three credit bureaus are:
Equifax: 1-800-525-6285 www.equifax.com
Experian: 1-888-397-3742 www.experian.com
TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289 www.transunion.com

I then called the IRS (1-800-908-4490 www.irs.gov.) and went online to download
a copy of Form 14039, which is an Identity Theft Affidavit.
The affidavit lets the IRS know someone has used your Social Security number.
The form advises the IRS that your current and future income taxes may be affected
and allows the agency to monitor your account for three years to identify future
questionable activity.

Next on the list was the Federal Trade Commission. I filled out a complaint.
This can be done by going to www.ftc.gov/idtheft

All of the credit bureaus offer ID protection services for a fee. They assign you
an expert who you can call if you have any questions about navigating this maze.
In addition, you’re notified immediately if there is any change in your credit report.
I am using Protect My ID.com, which is affiliated with Experian but all of the services
do essentially the same thing.

To date I have spent approximately 20 hours untangling this ball of yarn.
The “good news” is that the thief had charged a grand total of $100 before the card was flagged.
I have been cleared of all liability and the charge has been removed from my credit report.
In addition, I am in the process of extending my 90- day Fraud Alert to a 7-year Fraud Alert.
The “bad news” is my Social Security number is still out there in the ether and may or may
not be in the hands of a fraudster.
I will most likely never know who stole my Social Security number or how they did it.
Hopefully, you will never have to suffer from this horrible experience.
If you are victimized by an identity thief, you do not have to function like a victim.

Quick action on your part can go a long way to mitigating this event and help you back on the road
to recovering your vital personal information to insure that your identity stays your identity.

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CTS Consulting, Inc

3126 Berkshire Road

Baltimore, Maryland 21214

phone 410-444-5857

cell 443-286-2488