Someone stole Mike’s identity and has been using it to pay for gas service and buy cellphones in his name. He’s even got a $163 default judgment against him for something he never paid. Here’s how he unraveled the threads of his identity thieves, and how he may never truly be free from their grasp.
I have been reading Consumerist for years now, and like a good Consumerist reader I check my free credit report every year. Well apparently last year I didn’t check my Experian report, which was good news for me this year because I still have until May for my other two. Well, lo and behold, there’s a default filing for $163. At first I was like, oh I forgot to pay something, what the hell cost me $163 that I missed?
Small back story: At some point of my life during the transition from my parents house to my own apartment, my mail got rerouted to a P.O. Box that I don’t believe I ever set up. At the time I had only one major credit card, and Citibank put me on an extended fraud alert at my request. Basically what that means is that I can’t get instant credit and they have to call me any time somebody tries to use my credit info.
Flash forward to just 2 years ago right after my wife and I just bought our first house and I got a call from AT&T to verify my purchase there. Which was weird because I have only had Verizon. Needless to say I was mad, but they wouldn’t tell me the location of the store where it was happening or anything. So I told them that no, I wasn’t trying to buy a phone, it was fraud.
The next few days I got several more calls from T-mobile and Sprint. Sprint was the only company that at least told me what state this was all happening in, Texas. So I filed an FTC form online, but I had nothing to go to police with since the crooks are using my social but I have a lack of any activity in my report.
Last week I was reading over the report of the default filing and I see that the company is based in Texas. I Googled the company name, and it turns out its a large energy provider for most of the south, Atmos. I’m a long-time resident of NJ and I have never lived in Texas. At first I called Experian and filed a report with them. They gave me the Atmos number to call. I called Atmos and navigated their system to get to their billing department. At first they were shocked. I explained that I don’t live there and I don’t even know where there is. They gladly gave me the address for the residence who had used my social to get service to their house. Apparently this house is a known hotbed for denial of service and then reactivation under a different social. More than five times a year sometimes, she said. So I filed the report with Atmos.
Then took that info and called the debt collectors directly. I explained this all to them, and they just sounded defeated. They knew they weren’t getting a dime now.
Then I went and filed a police report and gave them all my info, the address of where this took place, the phone number of the guy who owned the property (was pretty sure it was a rental). I even had the land tax records which are publicly accessible. I know nothing will happen with the police report, but I need it so I can get my credit mark removed.
All in all it went better than expected, but I’m pretty sure my social is floating around on the black market now. It’s only a matter of time until my credit block is ended or there’s a lapse and somebody uses it. I have really good credit in the 740+ range. I’ve spent most of my adult credit-having life protecting my assets and following the rules.
Use my story as a reason people need to check their reports, and personally I believe these reports should be free every quarter since identity theft is more common than ever before.