Saturday, October 31, 2009

Where Did I Go? What Did I Do? (A personal tale of Identity theft)

A great friend of mine has written down an account of her brush with Identity theft, This being Halloween I could think of nothing more frightening!

I never want to go to jail. In fact, I behaved myself as a youngster so my parents wouldn’t hold to their promise of sending me to the dreaded REFORM school. So why was I being put into the back seat of a police cruiser suspected of armed robbery. Hey, I was just going to pick up my pizza!

Hold on…hold on, I’ll tell you the rest, but every tale has a beginning. And so…

It was the 70s; people were cool, laid back, yes? I stuck my purse into the bottom of the filing cabinet/desk just like every other woman in the world. Due to the nature of the office, it was often left unlocked and empty for a short time, no big deal. That’s when someone walked in, got into my purse, stole my wallet and I didn’t even know it until I was involved in a minor car accident (on the way to pick up that pizza) and was held on suspicion of armed robbery. Luckily, the identity of the robber wasn’t even close to my real description. In addition to all the hassle and time of closing credit cards, opening new bank account, notifying social security, notifying my payroll department etc., I had to relate this story every time I applied for a job, or credit or renewed my driver’s licenses for years! And this was before computers were an everyday item. Ding 1.

An unbeknownst-to-me pick-pocket bumped into be at the newsstand. I said “excuse me” and smiled. He put his head down and kept walking. The next day I couldn’t find my wallet. I then realized that bump-into at the newsstand was a distraction and he was a thief. Same hassle. Ding 2.

The enormously large metropolitan hospital I worked for twice “froze” our credit because a disgruntled and fired employee breached our personnel files, including personal and “confidential” data. This time, every time I tried to use my debit or credit card, I had to be stuck in line while they verified that the freeze on my credit was not really a report of a stolen credit or debit card. My best moment standing in line, in public while I felt humiliated and embarrassed while some kid said, “Gee, Mom, what’s the bad lady done?” Ding 3, times 2.

The real kicker came when I got a letter from the IRS asking me when I thought I’d like to pay that 30K in back taxes I owed…if it wasn’t too much trouble…or would I rather face a vacation at the federal penitentiary! This one almost gave me a heart attack, really. This one took a very astute lawyer, lots of time, lots of money and plenty of downright fear. I truly was facing some serious consequences because the problem also involved tax evasion. In every other jurisdiction you are innocent until proven guilty. With the IRS, the fact is, you are guilty until proven innocent in a court of law. In the final outcome I was able to prove my investment account was used for money laundering by someone who had stolen my identity. That person was known by me and is the one now sitting in the federal penitentiary. Ding 10, no less!

If you think you’re safe, please reconsider. These event happened to me during a time when Internet access was limited and small, comparatively speaking. You cannot imagine the number of people out there, who you may even know, that would love to use you as bait. It’s up to you and will cost you a lot less than that wonderful lawyer cost (and saved) me.

Frances Gollahon

To contact Fran:

No comments:

Post a Comment