This is the second part of a two-part story. Click here to read part 1.

HE SAYS:

The credit card companies and the credit bureaus did a good job helping us build a security bubble over ourselves so that the thief was having a hard time being successful in his fraudulent efforts; however, none of them were interested in finding the thief and putting a stop to his criminal activity.  So, we naturally turned to law enforcement to catch and punish our thief in the belief that a crime as pervasive and destructive as identity theft would be taken seriously and pursued with vigor.  Oh, how wrong we were.

We first called the police department in our home town in New York and were advised that they would not take a complaint over the phone which, of course, would have required me to suffer the hardship of traveling over 2,700 miles to make a complaint in person.   This was just one of the many road blocks and inadequacies we encountered with law enforcement’s lack of desire and inability to do anything about identity theft.  We next went to our Sheriff’s Department in Arizona and we were able to make a report and, eventually, obtain an Incident Report; however, other than generating this report they had no interest in pursuing this crime or conducting any investigation on our behalf.   The Sheriff’s Department would not contact any of the credit card companies to obtain the information they had on the thief and took the position that unless the thief was in their jurisdiction they would not take any action.

Despite all of the frustration and lack of any effort by law enforcement to find the thief, we felt like we had things under control until the thief made his next move.   The postman that delivers the mail to our office in Schenectady, New York knows us and was somewhat incredulous when he asked our office manager why I was having my mail forwarded to some address in California.  We learned that our thief had filed in my name an online change of address form with the US Postal Service to have my mail forwarded from my office address to an address in a small town near Los Angeles, California.   This was the most unnerving development since not only was the thief trying to fraudulently use my name but was now trying to steal my mail with all of the privacy issues that entails.   This prompted us to go paperless and exclusively rely on receiving our credit card statements, bank statements, investment statements, and even our bills online.

We immediately called the Schenectady Post Office and we were given the number for the national postal service department that deals with change of address requests.   They were cooperative and cancelled the change of address; however, we were advised that it would take several days for the cancellation to become effective so that some mail would probably get forwarded since our mail could be automatically diverted before it ever reached Schenectady.

We next called the post office in California and they proved to be very helpful.   They agreed to intercept any of my forwarded mail and send it back to Schenectady.   They also advised that they had already been suspicious of the address the thief was using and that the post office would conduct a sting operation to catch our thief.   We were also assured of this by the US Postal Service Fraud Department which considers itself to be a national law enforcement agency.   We were very hopeful that something would finally be done until we came to understand that they are all talk and no action.   To our knowledge, they never pursued the matter and they never kept any of their promises to call us with updated information.

We also contacted the police department in that small town in California and sent them the Incident Report from the Arizona Sheriff’s Department in lieu of going there to personally file a complaint.  Since then, they have never returned any of our calls and apparently have not done anything to pursue this crime or help us.   We have found that law enforcement thinks and acts in very narrow and limited ways and is not prepared or equipped to deal with sophisticated technological crimes that are conducted on a national scale such as identity theft even when the thief is in their own backyard.

We ultimately filed our Police Incident Report with the three credit bureaus in order to extend our “Fraud Alerts” for seven years.   It has been six months since we have had any identity theft activity that we are aware of anyway and we have taken and continue to take remedial steps and precautions to prevent this from happening to us in the future.

What we learned is that it is easy for identity thieves to steal and use your identity and for good reason since no one in the entire process from the companies being defrauded to law enforcement to even agencies having a national reach such as the US Postal Service has the desire to fight identity theft and bring the thief to justice.   If you become the victim of identity theft, good luck, since you will have to fight to protect yourself with little or no chance of actually finding and stopping the thief.

On Monday, Joe encourages everyone to vote in “Bigger Than Any One Of Us”.

WHAT DO YOU SAY?

HE SAYS:

That became the question once I realized I was the victim of identity theft.   Before it was over, I came to a new understanding of how frustrating it is to have your identity and good name assaulted in this way and how inept the system can be in providing any help in stopping the criminals involved.

It started in early April, 2012 while Annemarie and I were on our extended stay at our home in Arizona.  One day, my office manager called to tell me that my new card from a major credit card company had just arrived at my office.   I knew that I had not applied for any new credit cards, so I asked her to scan and e-mail me a copy of the card and the accompanying welcome letter.   Since the credit card had not yet been activated, I immediately called the fraud department of the credit card company and explained to them that the credit card was not requested by me and was a fraudulent transaction.   I must admit, that the credit card company was very cooperative in cancelling the credit card and agreed to flag my name and social security number so that even I could not obtain a new credit card from them without additional security screening.

What both angered and surprised me was that even though the credit card company would confirm that the fraudulent applicant had used my correct date of birth and social security number, they would not provide me with any other information regarding the thief claiming that the thief had privacy rights.  I was outraged that the person who was violating my privacy was able to hide behind the privacy rights afforded him by the very credit card company he was also defrauding.   The credit card company advised that they would give the information to law enforcement agencies if I provided them with an Incident Report; however, as we will see that proved to be a futile and fruitless process.   As an aside, I have not been able to determine how this thief obtained my Social Security Number.

Over the next several days my office was inundated with store cards from just about every major department store chain in the country.   Annemarie and I spent hours of our time calling the fraud departments of each of these stores and, in some cases, the banks that sponsor the store cards to have them cancelled.   Each call was an ordeal trying to work through the automated telephone prompts before you are able to reach a live person, then the list of questions to prove it was really me before they would address my problem, then being put on hold while they looked up my information and then the inevitable transfer to another person or department with more questions before you are finally able to find someone who could offer some help.  We would always follow-up with a letter to document the problem and request confirmation of the cancellation.   Fighting the fires started by the thief became a very time consuming process that took over our daily routine.

One bright spot was that the three major credit bureaus allow you to set up 90 day “Fraud Alerts” that lets the credit card companies know that you are the victim of identity theft.   This did go a long way in stopping or, at least, slowing down the thief’s success in obtaining credit cards in my name.   Instead, I would get calls every day asking if I was indeed the person requesting a new credit card and I would have to explain that I was being victimized by an identity thief.   In each case, they all took the position that the thief had privacy rights and they would not provide me with any information about his identity.

With the credit card situation somewhat in check, the thief turned to making purchases directly online using an online payment account he had set up in my name.   I did not find out about this until I received a bill from the online billing service connected with the fraudulent account.   Again, calls were made to cancel the account and we even called the underlying merchant to tell them directly about the fraud.   Unfortunately, one order had been shipped already and even though we were not being held responsible for the charge, I felt angry that the thief had found a way to be rewarded for his crimes.   Even under these circumstances, neither the online billing service nor the merchant would tell me anything about the thief even though they had his delivery address.   I could not believe that the business that was being robbed would protect the thief in this way.

In each and every case, we were told that it was our responsibility to seek the help of law enforcement since the credit card companies, department stores and even the small merchant all looked at identity theft as part of the cost of doing business and will not pursue criminal charges against identity thieves.

On Wednesday, Joe concludes his story about his personal experiences with identity theft in “Who Would Want To Be Me? (The End, Maybe)”.

WHAT DO YOU SAY?