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I don’t have time for identity theft

Categories: Money, Parenting & Family, Your life


A few weeks ago I got a strange message on our home phone about some huge balance I owe for my Sprint phone. I ignored it because well, I don’t have a Sprint phone. You’d think hearing something like this would raise a red flag but no, I just assumed they had the wrong person.

Then a week ago they called back. “They” is a billing company that works with Sprint to collect payment from people who are overdue on their bills. After I nicely explained to the lady on the phone that I don’t have a Sprint phone she asked me what my social security number was. I told her and she said yes, that’s the social security number that was used to buy this phone and monthly calling plan. It had my name on it, my phone number, and an address in a totally different part of the country. Now the red flag was raised.

The woman I was talking to was quick to say that it looks like someone got a hold of my social security number and used it. In other words, I am a victim of identity theft. Wow. That’s one of those things I definitely assumed would only happen to other people. Ignorant, I now know, but that’s the truth.

She told me that I had to report identity theft to my local police department and that they would investigate whether my social security number is being used anywhere else. Will you laugh at me or shame me or just not believe me that I still have not made it into the police station to report this? I’ve not been able to free up a few hours in the crazy family-work-move to a new house juggle but I am putting it on my to-do list for next week. I am, really.

But then there is the matter of my credit report and working things out with Sprint, which still has this huge balance connected to my name. I am happy to say that this part I am getting help with. You’ve probably seen Family Secure advertising on Work It, Mom! — they’re a sponsor of our site for a few months and we thank them for helping us keep Work It, Mom! great and free. Well, good thing I saw their ads because it turns out, this is something they offer as part of their service. For $19.95 per month they will monitor the credit reports and activity for your entire family, including your kids, and will work on your behalf to figure things out with creditors if an issue comes up, like say, someone steals your social security number and orders up a fancy Sprint phone with it. $20 bucks a month is very little to pay for a peace of mind and some help in a stressful situation, if you ask me. I signed up and they are on the case.

I encourage you to check out this service. Not because they are supporting Work It, Mom!, but because as a busy mom, your to-do list is long and I doubt checking your credit report and that of your kids regularly is on it. But it’s important and it’s something that’s easy to outsource.

Do you worry about identity theft? What measure do you take to protect your family?

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13 comments so far...

  • Nataly - that’s a pretty scary feeling isn’t it?!

    I went through something different, yet similar.

    I check my bank account daily and encourage others to do so. Luckily I noticed a couple of charges (for several thousand dollars!) pending. I called the bank to report them and found out that someone had “stolen” my bank card number. To make a long story short, bank personnel told me that folks use their cell phones to take pictures of your card when you use it for payment in a store. There’s no flash, so you certainly don’t know it’s happening. The picture can be enlarged, with all your information ready and available for them to use online! So be careful and keep the front of your card covered when you take it out of your purse!

    BlapherMJ  |  August 13th, 2008 at 10:13 am

  • I know two people that were victims of identy theft and it was quite an ordeal. It took a long time to clear it up.

    I do have a photocopy of everything in my bill fold and try to keep watch on my credit card, bank account, etc.

    I like the idea of someone keeping a watch for me though. :0)

    Lisa Willard  |  August 13th, 2008 at 12:35 pm

  • Just yesterday a big scandal broke in Germany. Someone played a CD into the hands of the police and that CD contained personal info (name, adress, birthday…) and bank info on 17000 people (and that’s just one CD - who knows how many more there are?!). Someone has collected that data and sold it. The information has been used to make bank transfers from the listed persons’ accounts to mainly “lottery companies” who often call in advance (probably to check whether the info is still valid).

    I also check my account daily and so far, I haven’t inexplicably transferred “small, inconspicuous sums” (they said that on the news and showed a bank statement with about 55 Euros transferred to the “lottery company” - I don’t know about you guys, but 55 Euros is certainly not so small a sum that I wouldn’t realize it’s gone, especially since I keep track of all my in and outgoing money), but I’m horrified anyway. I mean, they say “never let anyone see you enter your PIN at the ATM or the store”, “if the card slot at the ATM looks like this, evil people have installed a card reader in front of the real slot, they’ll copy the info on your card and film which numbers you push for your PIN”, “Never give anyone the PIN to your account, and if you have to write down the PIN, don’t keep it with the card”, “Never use the links provided in e-mail seemingly coming from your bank to enter information. And the bank never asks for your PIN”, but how is one supposed to avoid being caught in that grand scale scam that just was discovered here?

    Jo  |  August 13th, 2008 at 12:44 pm

  • Nataly,
    A. You need most definitely to report this to the police. First off, a crime was committed, and 2nd, Sprint may not discharge the debt unless they have a copy of the police report. I had my pocketbook stolen years ago while on vacation in Hawaii. As soon as we got back to the hotel room, I called my bank, all my credit card companies, etc to report it. The police had given me an incident number and once I got home, I got the report. Believe it or not, I actually got the pocketbook back, minus my gas card, a ring, and what little cash I had, and my glasses (that was a pain).

    3 years ago, my bank called me about a mystery charge of someone trying to buy a trailer at a Home Depot in CA. They’d managed to get my debit card # off a credit slip when I paid for dinner one night during a trip out to CA. Fortunately, they didn’t have the security code on the card. The Bank denied the charge and I walked over and got a new card/number. It’s frightening to think what could have happened.

    2. The fact that you told the lady your SS# over the phone was a big no-no. I don’t care, that’s something you never ever do. I was a police dispatcher many eons ago and even then, all I needed was an SS# and you wouldn’t BELIEVE the amount of info I could find. And there are more data bases open now to people than you can ever imagine. With an SS# you can get credit reports, tons and tons of personal info, all available on the net. You might want to have your bank change your account number so that any/all info on the old one is unusable.

    For any/everyone - this is a MAJOR pain for anyone to have to go thru.

    And to anyone with teenagers - this is a VERY IMPORTANT point to drive home. NEVER EVER allow that driver’s license out of your sight. NEVER EVER carry your SS card on you at all, except when doing paperwork for a new job.

    All these incidents should be reported to the police ASAP as soon as you find out about them. It helps insulate you from possible future fraud and gets the ball rolling to help you clear everything up.

    Jane  |  August 13th, 2008 at 1:15 pm

  • This just happened to my husband yesterday - the previous night he bought Xbox points (yes I know, he’s a bit old for video games, but he’s home with me) and played a bit before bed. Yesterday he tried to use that bank card (check card) and his account was empty - he also could not get into his hotmail or Xbox accounts and spent hours on the phone last night resolving everything.
    What a headache!

    Christine  |  August 13th, 2008 at 2:48 pm

  • Wow. I can’t believe this happened to you of all people, the busiest woman in the world.

    Hope it all gets settled, and though I totally understand why you have not been to the police station — hope you get there next week.

    Gah, that sucks Nataly.

    Kristin  |  August 14th, 2008 at 12:47 am

  • As a person that used to work for Cambridge District Court in the Probation Department, I would advise ANYONE to please check, double check and triple check who they give their information to.

    I once thought that everyone was innocent until proven guilty. Believe me, credit fraud is the #1 case in the US, and it just keeps happening.

    I agree with Jane that you MUST tell the police, and 2) that you MUST NOT EVER give out your SSN number over the phone or via e mails.

    I would highly advise you to talk to your lawyer about what you can do on your end to protect yourself.

    Hope this information is helpful,


    Gia  |  August 14th, 2008 at 2:08 pm

  • Somebody opened an account in my husband’s name, using his SS#. It was incredibly aggravating. There’s little to no regulation on this — credit card companies are under no obligation to believe you when you tell them you’ve been a victim of identity fraud. We were told that if we didn’t file a police report, we’d almost certainly be held responsible for the balance.

    We filed a report and the credit card company refused to honor our request to have the debt retired. We had to choose between paying it ourselves (several thousand dollars) and letting it age off our credit.

    Second, third, etc the recommendation that you never, ever give your SS# to somebody that has called you on the phone. Ask to call them back (not on a direct line) or have them give you the number and you can verify.

    We’re pretty sure my husband’s was stolen off some college paperwork that was in his truck (which had been broken into) — it’s unfortunately still painfully common for organizations to use the SS# as their unique identifier and then print it on all kinds of stuff!

    Best of luck getting it taken care of.

    Jan  |  August 14th, 2008 at 7:25 pm

  • I have also been a victim of identity theft. In my case as like most, it was someone I knew. This person had access to all my informatie, ie mother’s maiden name, social security number… I cleared it up with the credit bureau but I never reported her to the local police. She is the mother of my nephew. Identity Theft is no joke. It ruins families

    Cheryl Lynn  |  August 16th, 2008 at 8:52 am

  • I agree that you should never give your SSN to someone who has called you. Make THEM tell you what SSN they have on the account. Even if they get pissy, like one woman did with me.

    @Jan, you should have some sort of recourse if the cc co. refused to discharge the debt. Try reviewing the Fair Credit Reporting Act and see if this is something you can report to the FTC. (And maybe the BBB, too.)

    becky  |  August 17th, 2008 at 3:36 pm

  • PS) Nataly - you probably didn’t know. We’re not trying to make you feel bad, just letting you know for future reference. I hope you get this resolved. Don’t wait too much longer! The more time that passes, the harder it is to convince them that you didn’t know and it’s not yours.

    becky  |  August 17th, 2008 at 3:37 pm

  • Dear Nataly,

    I am so happy that you are enjoying FamilySecure. As mothers, we have so many other things to worry about, and identity theft just doesn’t always rate. But when it happens, it can absolutely eat up hours of your time and leave you emotionally drained. What I love about FamilySecure is we take care of it—we watch to make sure no one is using your identity and if we detect something unusual, we help you stop it immediately. Plus, our identity theft resolution professionals help you clean up the mess. That helping hand is so valuable and comforting. Probably the scariest trend we see today is child identity theft. I recently read a story about a 7-year-old girl who had her identity stolen at age 1, but her mom didn’t find out about it until she applied for health insurance. Because you now have FamilySecure, you also are protecting your children giving you more peace of mind. And we’re here for any questions along the way. If you have any questions at all, or if you receive any phone calls or letters that concern you, please call our fraud resolution team immediately and they will help you clear up any issues you might encounter.

    Jennifer Leuer
    General Manager – ID Theft & Family Protection

    Jennifer Leuer  |  August 26th, 2008 at 6:50 pm

  • While it has not happened to me, it has happened to my mother. She operates and owns an In-home daycare and tried to apply for a loan to relocate and expand her site. Well needless to say, the loan was denied because she was in foreclosure on not one, but two homes and a repossession of an automobile. Well my mom is 60-years old and has never driven nor has she ever had a driver’s license. She does not even own a home or at least one that she occupies(as per the foreclosures). The culprits have used her social security number and month and day of birth, but the names do not match. She is constantly trying to get this straightened out and has enlisted the aid of the local police department and the FBI. It is going on several months now, and it is still not cleared.

    So if you ever receive any phone calls out of the ordinary; immediately follow-up. It is better to be safe than a victim.

    Yvonne  |  September 1st, 2008 at 11:03 pm