- Posted August 11, 2008 by
Kansas CIty, Kansas
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Have you been a victim of identity theft?
WHO owes $8K in cell phone bills???
It was July 1998. I was sitting at my desk doing my accounts payable data entry job as usual. My extension rang:
"May I speak with Claudine please?" Uh oh. That's bad. Nobody calls me that unless I'm in some kind of legal or financial trouble. The receptionist has already transferred it to me. Panic. Can't lie, they already know I'm here! Breathe.
"Uh. This is she." I don't want to be she, but I am indeed she.
"Ma'am, this is blahbitiyblah from Pacific Bell in LosAngeles, CA in the collections department. We would like to know if you have any idea that your name and Social Security number were used to activate six different cells phones in our local calling area, which has resulted in a combined balance due of over $8000?" What the hell did she just say????
"Uhhhhm, No. I was not aware of that. Where did you say it was again, because I'm in Kansas and I've never even been on a plane or anything." Are we done? Can I hang up now? Asked and answered. Buh-bye.
"We're in LosAngeles, CA. Do you have any friends or family members that you know of that would have access to that information that have traveled to LA in the last 5 months ma'am." Pfft.
"Uh. No, not that I can think of. I do work at a trucking service company that has alot of customers that travel there, but I can't imagine how they would have gotten either of those two pieces of information, since I never go by Claudine." It hits me what the heck is going on... Oh. My. GAWD. Panic. Hysteria. Melee. MayDay! Open the floodgates, here come the tears.
"I don't have any money. I can't pay you. I'm going to need some kind of payment plan. Wait. I'm NOT going to pay you! I did NOT do this! I don't know who did this to me. Why would someone do this to me??? I don't know what to do. Do I need a lawyer? What do I do? What do you want? I don't have any money!" Breathe. I can't breathe. I'm gonna puke. Breathe.
"Ma'am. MA'AM. It's okay. We know that you are not responsible for this and we are not calling for collection. We were calling to inform you that your identity was stolen and advise you of the steps you need to take for your own benefit. This is happening more and more with the widening use of the internet and it's quite probable you've never met the person who has done this. We just ask that you please call us if you can later think of anyone who would have had opportunity to do this. Pacific Bell apologizes and this will not be reported as a negative non payment on your credit report. Here are the numbers of the three reporting agencies. Call and advise them of what has happened and they will place a fraud alert on your account. You may wish to file a police report and contact the social security administration if you would like to obtain a new social security number. Thank you so much for your patience. Please sign and fax back the release form I will be sending shortly. I'm really sorry to have ruined your day. Things will get better."
I have to tell you, as well informed as I tell myself I am, back then, that was the very first time I had ever even heard of such a thing. I was outraged and confused and by the end of the day it was much worse.
I sat on hold forever with my local police department as they tried to figure out what kind of report I was supposed to be doing, as it really wasn't in their jurisdiction if the theft had happened in California, which I of course really had no idea if it had or not. They finally had a supervisor tell me that although he was sorry, it just wasn't the city of Kansas City, KS's problem.
I sat on hold again to speak with a representative at the Social Security Administration. I told him I wanted to file for a new Social. He asked why, I told him the story. He sat there and finally said, "I really don't advise you to go to that kind of trouble ma'am. You're 28 years old. Have you been to college? Yes? M'Kay, well, what I'm saying is that you have 28 years of medical, school and financial records attached to that number ma'am and I think it would be more of a hassle to change it at this point in your life than to just deal with the consequences of what's happened. But, you of course are more than welcome to. I will mail you the forms. Good luck to you ma'am." Wow. I hadn't even thought about all of that.
I called each of the three credit reporting agencies. Each placed me on fraud alert, which I had no idea over the next SEVEN years of my life would make it humiliatingly difficult to make any major purchases. The cell phone guy looking at me, saying he's sorry, but there's a fraud alert on my account. Which to him meant I was a fraud. To me, it meant I had to follow "the procedure" in order to complete my purchase. "The procedure" was to run home to my designated land line and call "the credit gods" and answer my trick questions. Once I'd passed the test to prove that I was me, they called the cell phone guy back and told him, "that lady's no fraud, that's our friend Claudine and she can have anything she wants!" I'd get my new phone, while explaining the whooooole story to somebody new so they wouldn't look at me like I was about to rob them.
The whole thing was a nightmare, and I'm glad the 7 years of ME being punished for someone else's indecencies are over. I must say though, that "the procedure" has made it impossible for me to make an impulse buy, so I've actually saved myself from a t.v., a living room set and a computer that I didn't REALLY have to have. I've had my own cooling off period driving home to that land line to the gods and decided not to have them answer my prayers. It's not 8 grand, but it'll do.