Dear Valued Customer:
Blah blah blah our employee’s laptop computer stolen blah blah blah your personal information may have been compromised.
Company That Never Explained Why My Personal Information Was On Their Laptop In The First Place
Um, Thanks. And argh.
I found a really helpful overview from the government . In summary:
- You have the right to ask that nationwide consumer reporting companies place “fraud alerts” in your file to let potential creditors and others know you may be the victim of identify theft.
I filed with Equifax, who notified the other two:
- Equifax – 800-525/6285 equifax.com
- Experian – 888-397-3742 experian.com
- Trans Union – 800-680-7289 transunion.com
A fraud alert encourages lenders to “take additional steps” before issuing credit. I hope, hope, hope it also slows down the torrent of credit card solicitations, because I’ve not had good luck with traditional remedies: opt out of credit card offers (which does appear on my credit reports), the do not call list (more loopholes than an offshore corporation) and direct marketing offers.
Consider exhibit 1, Marriott Rewards offers received from November 1st through January 31, 2011:
Marriott Rewards’ support person was sympathetic to my plight and let on that they receive this request a lot. In the email blurb, she left on the directions they receive internally (Bold is mine for emphasis.)
Use next two paragraphs if request is specifically about Chase: A request has been processed to discontinue all future credit card solicitations from Chase that are based on your Marriott Rewards membership. It may take up to 90 days to stop receiving offers that they have already prepared for delivery. I apologize for the inconvenience.
Additionally, please follow any instructions provided by Chase to stop sending offers or invitations to you that are separate from your Marriott Rewards membership.
I thought I had opted out of Chase’s marketing extravaganza a while back. However, after searching online, I found a separate process for opting out of paper solicitations. Of course.
Unless an actual identity theft event occurs (supported by a police report and my body weight in paperwork), the fraud alert is only on file for 90 days. I don’t see any reason why I cannot keep filing new ones, though.
- You have the right to free copies of the information in your file. I have been requesting annual credit reports from Annual Credit Report.com (the only authorized source). You get one from each company, and can request them all at once or individually. One rather spooky thing is when you do this, they ask you some tricky questions to verify identity that might make one think the identity problem was even worse. For example:
In 2009, you purchased a new car. The monthly payment is approximately how much:
- $100 and a bottle of mustard
- There is no loan.
Ginormous bun is an aftermarket add-on
After answering the questions correctly, the credit report is presented with a soft-sell for a subscription to a fee-based service.
- You have the right to obtain documents relating to fraudulent transactions made or accounts opened using your personal information. Thankfully, I have not gotten this far yet.
- You have the right to obtain information from a debt collector.
Good to know. Unfortunately, about once a quarter I receive robo-calls from some debt collection agency who’s too frecking lazy to notice “Current Resident” and “Zener Diode” are not the names of the people who have been living here. (The giveaway is a message with no specifics on reason.) Robocalls continue until I call back and tell them I am not “Max Power.”
- If you believe information in your file results from identify theft, you have the right to ask that a consumer reporting agency block that information from your file. I read through the extended documentation on this and it’s very paper-driven. I hope to never get this far.
- You also may prevent businesses from reporting information about you to consumer reporting agencies if you believe the information is a result of identity theft.This is another thing that must be done in writing, which means time, and hassle.