This is a continuation from Friday’s Fraud of the Day detailing a true story of a LexisNexis colleague’s overwhelming experience with identity theft. Let’s just call him Bill.
If you haven’t read last Friday’s Fraud of the Day, click here.
They leveraged a resource in the city the fraud was perpetrated, who specialized in these types of cases. (What was strange about a significant finding during the investigation was that the fraud was perpetrated only an hour and half drive from our home (“Ok boys saddle up, it’s time to go for a ride!”). After several subpoenas to secure the information used to apply for the credit and the IP addresses from where they originated from, we learned that that the fraudster had my full name, previous address, full Date of Birth (DOB), Social Security number (SSN) and a fake driver license, which he used to secure the lease for both of the apartments during his 12-18 months of living off of my credit. Once my credit header data was changed, the information that includes your name, address, phone number, DOB and SSN, this opened the flood gates to numerous accounts being opened fraudulently which led to accumulation of debts.
Unfortunately, while the investigation led to no definitive reason of how my identity was stolen or how my data was compromised, local authorities did what they could to track down this ‘ghost’ who had stolen my identity.
Reflecting on this experience, I have tried to come up with ways I could have prevented this from happening. Perhaps monitoring my credit report more frequently, placing a credit freeze or alert or subscribing to an identity theft protection service could have prevented it. While the federal mandate that requires credit reporting agencies to provide all U.S citizens access to their credit report once a year is a step towards protecting one’s identity; it’s just that – one step. I quickly learned it was not enough especially since I had religiously reviewed my credit report from all three credit report agencies once or twice a year for the last several years.
I’ve come to this conclusion: if the first fraudulent account opened by this large company would have had identity authentication controls in place – a series of questions which are asked about the applicant that only he or she could answer – the fraudster, who had all my PII in hand, likely would have never been able to answer the questions correctly and received these services on my tab.
Today, I have a few different identity and credit monitoring services including credit alerts with all three bureaus. However, I still live with a degree of paranoia wondering if other debts would come to light two years after my identity was stolen. Could my identity be stolen again? For now, I take it one day at a time and hope that additional debts accumulated from this won’t resurface.
Just days before being asked to write this personal experience, another large debt ($10K) arose out of the ashes of what I thought was behind me. This is nearly two years after my identity was stolen and the nightmare returns.
(While some government agencies are hoping to recover debt(s) owed, some states are being proactive by looking for ways to prevent this from happening in the first place. Gee-whiz, what a concept, protecting citizens. We need a lot more of this.)
Lastly, I didn’t mention how or when exactly my identity was stolen because no real conclusion was made from the investigation. My gut tells me it was one of three scenarios:
1. The state I live in reported they had lost a computer that had access to taxpayer data (150K) several years ago and I was on this list. They gave me an identity protection service for two years, which I REGRETFULLY did not renew.
2. Coincidence? The first fraudulent account, a phone company service was opened the same month we closed on our new home. Is it possible that my PII was compromised during this process considering all the eyes that saw my mortgage application (i.e. bank, title company, underwriters, loan officer, realtor, manager, etc.)
3. Stolen on the black market. In other words – it could have been stolen anywhere at any time.
Thanks for your story Bill, I hope our readers can benefit by your experience. (I am off to now spend that $10k.)