Until recently I thought Identity Theft was something that only happened to people who were careless with their personal information and who fell prey to the myriad of telephone, mail and online scams floating around out there.
No more. It happened to me, and it could happen to you.
It all began when I received a call from someone claiming to be from the Fraud Prevention Department of MBNA Canada. The caller wanted to know if I had recently applied for an Amazon.ca MBNA credit card, to which I replied No.
She then informed me that someone had applied for one earlier this month using my personal financial information — or at least enough of it to apply for credit.
And, here’s the kicker. She told me that in order to cancel the card, I would have to answer some security questions to prove/verify my identity!
This request sent my spidey-sense tingling. Like most people, I have read all the warnings about never disclosing any personal information over the phone and/or online to strangers.
Since, on any given day, I receive several scam phone calls telling me that I have won non-existent cruises, warning me that a warrant is out for my arrest for unpaid taxes, or telling me a family member is in economic distress in a foreign country, I was immediately leery of this request and accused her of being a scammer and hung up the phone.
Within 15 seconds my phone rang again — same person, same spiel. This time she advised me to go to the MBNA Canada website while we were on the phone. At this point, I was beginning to wonder if she was legitimate and followed her advice.
To make a long story short, after about 15 minutes of conversation, she convinced me that the call was legitimate. By providing some personal information that only I would know, I was able to prove that I was who I said I was and that whoever applied for the credit card was a fraudster.
The fraudulent request for an MBNA credit card was rejected and canceled. End of story — right?
In light of the fact that my personal financial information had been compromised, the MBNA representative advised me to contact Canada’s two credit bureaus (why do we have two?) — Equifax and Trans-Union and have them put Fraud Prevention Alerts on my credit profile.
I began with Equifax as it was the one I had heard of before. Since I am not one to be making large purchases or trying to build my credit, I have never requested a credit report or credit score. The process took about 30 minutes as I had to fill in online forms and provide security questions and so on and pay a fee of $11.95 for the privilege. The report indicated that no recent inquiries about my credit had been made. Just to be on the safe side, I ordered their monthly Credit Monitoring service which will permit me to check my credit regularly and will alert me if anyone (e.g. credit card fraudsters) inquires about my credit rating. This for a price of $19.95 per month.
Case closed. Right? Not so fast.
The next morning I had two dodgy looking characters appear on my front porch within one hour of each other claiming to be distributing menus from the local Domino’s Pizza. I knew this was bogus as they didn’t go to any other houses around me. A quick call to Domino’s confirmed what I suspected — they had no one in the neighbourhood distributing menus. My residence was being targeted, for whatever reason.
Assuming that the individuals were criminal door-checkers, I reported the incident to the local police and they told me a car would be sent out to look for them.
Story over? Not so fast.
After checking my mail, I came across an envelope with a spanking brand new RBC Visa Credit Card in my name.
After another grueling 30 – 45 minutes on the phone with RBC’s Fraud Prevention Department, I was able to prove that I did not apply for the card and it was canceled and I destroyed the card
I decided it was in my best interests to contact Trans-Union about what credit information about me they had in their files. Much to my chagrin, they informed me that two recent inquiries about my credit rating had been made — one from MBNA and one from RBC.
The dots were beginning to connect up.
I told the Trans-Union representative about the MBNA call and the unsolicited RBC credit card. He asked me if I had noticed anyone going through my mail recently as they may be cohorts of the scammer attempting to intercept the bogus cards.
After I told him about the two porch visitors, he suggested that I should protect myself by having my mail temporarily diverted until the threat of any further criminal activity passed. Since I now have Fraud Protection Alert protection with both credit bureaus, no further applications for credit using my name can be made without direct contact with me.
So, the costs of protecting myself from these and further fraud attempts have added up to well over $200.00. And still nobody (including my own bank) can explain to me how my personal financial information was compromised. Nor can they can guarantee that future fraudulent attempts won’t be made.
I have resigned myself to checking my credit information daily for peace of mind, if nothing else.
My advice? Be vigilant with your personal financial information and report any suspicious activity. You may even consider subscribing to one of the two credit bureaus.
Identity Theft can happen to anyone, as I have learned.