“clear measuring glass” by Steve Johnson on Unsplash

Just an ounce of prevention…

I’ve received many positive emails from creditkarma over the past year. Stuff like:

Woot! Woot! Your score went up! — — or — — It’s that time again! Check your score.

A New Inquiry on your Equifax Report — — followed by — — Your Score Dropped Gail.

The monkeys in my mind went berserk!

I’d checked email on my phone while out and about somewhere and whatever I was doing was completely overshadowed by fear and panic. Somebody was using my identity to request credit.

I’ve spent fifty years building this identity and somewhere near the top floor — in big bold letters it says: YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE WITH YOUR MONEY AND EVERYBODY ELSE’S. YOU DON’T BUY STUFF THAT YOU WON’T USE. YOU PAY WHAT YOU OWE AND PAY IT ON TIME.

Whoa monkeys — settle down. We’ll sort this out when we get home.

I believe most people are good — and I believe in trust. Sometimes it gets me into a little trouble.

You see last year, on a Sunday morning while in my pajamas, I got a pop-up message on my computer screen. Do not hit another key! Call this number for support. And right there in the middle of it was Microsoft’s logo.

I know you might have an internal scream of “nooooooooooo” going on right now.

I didn’t…and I called.

Suffice it to say — never call a number that appears in a pop-up, okay?

After being Suckered on a Sunday Morning, I signed up for creditkarma. It wasn’t that I cared so much about knowing my score — although that’s important — I wanted to be alerted to any inquiries into my credit. Signing up was a smart decision. If you take anything away from this story, please sign up for some kind of credit monitoring service.

Do not pass go, do not collect $200, sign up today.

First, I visited the Equifax site and filed a dispute.

Next, I called the credit card company that sent the inquiry to Equifax. I spoke with somebody from their fraud unit. She indicated there were two applications for cards under my maiden name, but the address and Social Security Number didn’t match mine. Probably just a mistake somewhere.

“closeup photo of gray fern plant” by mike mcgrath on Unsplash

I was considering placing a credit freeze with the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) until probably just a mistake reminded me that most people are good. Ahhhh — credit monitoring is enough, I thought.

I’d considered placing a credit freeze last year after my computer snafu, but opted not to for several reasons — I planned to request credit in the near future, thawing took time — and cost a few bucks. It can be really hard to change our thinking! Ahhh — credit monitoring will be enough, I thought.

And it was. Credit monitoring did exactly what I expected.

But then, a third shoe dropped. Early this week, I had another opportunity to calm my monkeys when I opened a letter from the Account Protection Team at the credit card company I’d called last week. The letter had my married name and correct address. Another application — please contact them as soon as possible?

Of course I called immediately.

“Yes, somebody has requested a card using your information, but some data was not an exact match so we sent you the letter. I will deny the application and mark it as fraudulent. I’ll also contact the credit bureau,” the helpful representative said.

“How often does this happen?” I asked.

“24/7, including weekends and holidays,” she replied.

I’ve finally opted to place my reports in the deep freeze. Over the past year, there’s been legislation to make the process of freezing and thawing credit easier and completely free. You can find out more about the process here.

I still believe most people are good, but a few rotten apples can spoil all the fun.

Protect yourself — an ounce of prevention can truly be worth a pound of cure.

Monty Bates — You offered solid advice last year. Happy to report I stopped dragging my feet.

Financial identity theft can drain your accounts.

Identity thieves also target children.

Public Wi-Fi is an identity thief’s friend.

You can do everything right and still be a victim.

Recovery takes time.
In 2017, over 140 million hours were spent by identity theft victims trying to solve their issues.

Credit monitoring — As Martha Stewart would say, “It’s a good thing.”