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Monday, August 23, 2010

Identity Theft Sucks

I used to hate my name. It was foreign, nobody could pronounce it, people always asked what it meant and I'd have to find some exotic explanation other than, it's just a friggin' name. Do people ask girls named Emily what it means? Or Lola? Can I ask the Elizabeth's of this world to never insist that I call them by their full name because my tongue gets tired.

"It's not Liz or Beth, it's Elizabeth."

Bitch. How 'bout that - I'm just gonna call you bitch.

But the tables have turned. Now, having a not so popular name is a blessing when it comes making an easy target for identity theft. My husband, however did become a victim. It's not surprising, now that I know about the "Debt Collector" scheme. There are over twenty people with his name living in New York alone. Six of them, have the same middle name, too. He could be a popular guy without even trying.

You may have already heard about the scheme - it's called phishing. A debt collector buys a bunch of bad debt for pennies on the dollar. Then they call everybody with the same name and tries to get them to pay for it. In some cases they threaten jail, repossession, foreclosure even calling child services and some people are actually scared into paying it.

Our case wasn't as severe with the phone calls, but the law firm actually produced a summons and delivered it via Big Bouncer Dude to our door. We were now obligated to go to court and fight this, otherwise the debt collector wins and poof! - they get to garnish our wages. Yeah. Literally, steal your money directly from your paycheck and there ain't a thing you can do about it.

I would rather be robbed with a gun in my face, thank you very much.

So if you've found yourself a victim of this crime, which is steadily on the rise, here's some information on what we did.

Step one, call the debt collector and demand a copy of the application, the statement, the signature - the whole nine yards. You have the right to this information.

Step two, if you are summoned to go to court - SHOW UP! You have no choice because once you default on that, you've given the debt collector a legal avenue into your money.

Step three, call the creditor who sold this bad debt to the debt collector and make them re-open an investigation (the information will be on the copy of the statement you demanded from the debt collector). In our case it was a JP MORGAN CHASE credit card that was opened fraudulently. Chase had to "buy" back the debt to re-investigate.

It took them a good three months but Chase sent a letter saying my husband was not responsible for the charges and cleared his credit rating, too. I did have to call again and again to get them off their asses, however.

Armed with the letter from Chase, we still showed up at court. When the case was called, we were told the case had been "Discontinued" and we got it in writing. This bad dream is over - for now.

Words of advice - never give anybody your Social Security number. I know it's common knowledge but are plenty of scammers out there that are so convincing that people just fall for it. Remember, no institution ever calls a client to "verify" an SSN. If they do, then ask them to recite it to you and you'll tell them if they've got it right.

And about filing an Identity Theft Report with the police? Yeah, we tried that. Several times. It was a joke. Still, if you're a glutton for punishment here's what we've learned.

List all the accounts that were opened fraudulently: the name on the account, account number, date it was opened and how much is owed. Bring that list with you and after you've waited in the waiting area for about a day, a civilian officer will get around to typing it and you'll be on your merry way to have a nice chat with a detective. If you get as far as part three, please let me know what happens because we only got as far as part two.

Apparently, when the account goes to a debt collector - it becomes private business. The debt collector is then free to collect the money however he can. And though there are legal guidelines as to how they can harass you for it, in the end you have to remember - you're dealing with a con artist.

If you have a scam you'd like people to be aware of, please share it. Knowledge is to scams, what Pepper Mace is to muggers.

1 comment:

  1. what a bunch of mess I hope it is over for good...