Identity theft can happen -- it did to me

Monday, January 12, 2004

I haven't been feeling like myself lately.

I've co-signed a $9,000 student loan for a person I don't know. I've had conversations with people that I don't remember having and I've ordered things on the Internet that I never would have ordered.

Other weird things have been happening to me, too.

Without making a single purchase or signing up for any new service, my bank account is $500 lighter. My credit cards are being declined and ATMs are eating my debit card.

It's funny how the timing of these things work out sometimes. In the very week someone got a hold of my Social Security number, the Southeast Missourian ran a story on identity theft.

Somebody wants to be me, the story cautioned. Nah, won't happen to me, my internal voice replied. I'm too smart.

Then I go and do something dumb like leave my car door unlocked on a public street. I don't know what this person got, but it wasn't difficult, just like the story said. It may have been a pay stub. It may have been a discarded bank deposit slip. Or an insurance card. It could have been anything.

I know it was then, too, because my cell phone was also taken. I canceled the phone. Then, a few hours later, I called the number and the phone was back on. I was sent directly to my voice mail.

So I called my cell phone company.

"Hey," I said. "I told you guys to cancel my cell phone."

"We did," the woman said. "But then you called back and had it turned back on two hours ago."

I did?

At least someone with my Social Security number did. This person also ordered a new charger and tried to use a check.

So I had the phone canceled again, filed a police report and ordered a new phone. With my insurance, it only cost me $35. Not too bad, I thought. You live and learn. No big deal.

But that wasn't the end. A few days later, $250 was withdrawn electronically from our checking account. A few days after that, another $100. I called the police again but got the feeling there wasn't much they could do.

Then I got a call from a technical school in Louisville. The man told me he was calling about a loan I had co-signed for $9,000.

My jaw dropped and my gum fell out.

The man went on to say that he had already talked to me, but after some checking, he wondered why I got my birth date wrong on the application. I told him that I had never spoken to him and would not co-sign a loan for somebody I didn't know.

I called the fraud alert hotline in the story. I canceled my checking account and got another one. Both of these actions led to more frustration. Unsure whether I was me or not, the bank kept my debit card in the ATM and my credit card was declined when I was out with friends.

I hoped that other Scott Moyers wasn't having any fun, either.

But at least there was another name on that $9,000 application, which gave police officers some clues. It's a start, although that person says he's simply another victim of identity theft.

Regardless, it has been one of the most frustrating times I can remember. The lesson here is clear, but I'll drive it home, because I needed it driven home.

Protect your personal information. Keep your information in a safe place. (Not your car.)

And if you run into someone named Scott Moyers, ask to see his identification.

Scott Moyers is the business editor of the Southeast Missourian.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: