I discovered something really scary recently. Someone is using my Social Security Number.
The beginning of November I logged onto my online banking site and discovered a new checking account. What? I didn’t open a new account! So I called the bank. I discovered that someone had opened the account using my SSN, but not my name, the day before. It was opened by someone in a city where I used to live, at a branch of my bank there. I promptly had them close the account and was happy to learn that no cards (debit or credit) had been issued yet. A few days later, I got the signature form to issue said cards in the mail. I called the bank again to make sure, and yes, the account was closed, and the form had been mailed before I called the first time.
In addition to having the bank close my account and set up a security function where they flag my SSN (someone calls me if anyone attempts to use my SSN), I called one of the three the credit report company and had them flag my credit file with a “fraud alert” for 90 days. That company then notifies the other two. Once I had all three confirmation letters that my credit file was successfully flagged with the alert, I requested a copy of my credit report from one of them. [I do this annually anyway, around my birthday (a date that’s easy to remember), just to be safe.]
Yesterday I got said credit report in the mail. I was horrified and freaked out to discover that someone had opened not one, not two, but THREE lines of credit in September using my SSN, all three of them opened in same city as the attempted checking account. Two loans and one open line of credit for a total of just over $50,000. I now have a pile of things I have to do to protect myself from being responsible for these accounts and to get them removed from my credit report and to stop it from happening again. I started an investigation into the fraudulent accounts with the credit company. I have to call all three companies that the accounts were opened with and notify them that someone opened the account using my SSN, and that they need to start their paperwork to file the accounts as fraudulent. There are several forms to fill out and paperwork to deal with. I also need to file a police report with the local police department, which is part of the Identity Theft Report. I’m going to get copies of my credit report from the other two credit agencies, for comparison and to make sure there’s nothing else.
There’s a list of things you have to do on the FTC webpages that address ID theft, including a 52 page document explaining each step and how to protect yourself.
Watch over your Social Security Number. You have a right to request that an organization use a different number as you ID number. Other than for a credit check or tax reporting, there’s no reason they need it. Ask questions about why they want it, how it’s to be used, and for them to use a different number for your ID. If they say no or you are uncomfortable with any of their answers, take your business elsewhere if at all possible. No one has to use your SSN as your ID number for any reason, and other than credit checks and for tax purposes, no company needs it for general record keeping or paperwork either.
And for those of you that don’t make a habit of using your legal right to an annual free credit report … DO IT! Better safe than sorry.