Identity Theft or How I learned to spell “bureau”   18 December 2013

Sometime back in May, someone in Ohio opened up a PayPal MasterCard in my name. I didn’t figure this out until August when I started getting calls from a debt collectors which, ironically, I ignored because they sounded like identity thieves. After getting several of these calls I eventually called PayPal directly and determined they were genuine debt collectors, and someone else had my SSN and birth date.

So if you find yourself in this situation here an optimized version of the steps I went through to get things sorted out.

  1. Read through the Identity Theft Report form. It’ll help you figure out the questions you should be asking when you’re on the phone with the debt collectors and creditors.
  2. Take lots of notes. It makes all the later steps easier.
  3. Make it clear to the creditor that you didn’t open the account, authorize anyone to open the account and you didn’t make any of the purchases. They’ll close the account and do some sort of investigation into it. Along the way they’ll try to talk you into paying it off.
  4. Place a fraud alert. Do it with one of the credit bureaus and they’ll pass it along to the others. The alert means that creditors will contact you before opening new accounts.
  5. Put a note on your calendar to extend the fraud alert after 90 days.
  6. Get your free credit reports. Once there’s a fraud alert you’re entitled to a free credit report from each bureau.
  7. File a police report. Call your local police and they’ll either do it over the phone or send someone around.
  8. Create an Identity Theft Report. At this point, with your notes you should have everything you need.
  9. Follow up with the credit bureaus. You can dispute any inaccurate information (I had to get the Ohio phone number and address removed) and have a comment explaining what happened added to your credit report.

The best tip I learned from this was don’t get all your free yearly credit reports at once! Spread it out, get one every 4 months. You’ll have a much better chance of spotting problems sooner.

I guess I was pretty lucky. I discovered it relatively early and they only opened one account for $245.76 ($393.39 after late fees) so the process of getting everything sorted out was pretty straightforward. Hopefully this won’t be useful for anyone else.

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