Identity Theft: I Guess It Really Can Happen to Anyone

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Given the numbers, it was probably just a matter of time, but I’m still a bit surprised that I’ve become a statistic in the identity theft numbers game. I’ve never been truly paranoid about my identity information, but neither have I been particularly careless with it. Regardless, my vital date of birth and social security number combination has apparently been compromised.

Around 10 AM this morning I got a call from the Advanta Business Cards department asking me to verify some information for an account application. As you may have guessed, I’d made no such application, but someone using my DOB, SSN, and an address in Irvington, NJ had for a business called “Stephen, Inc.” Very creative.

After speaking with their fraud department and getting that application and another using related information canceled, I hopped over to the FTC’s Identity Theft website and did what they told me to.

As nearly as I can determine, no actual damage has been done yet, but unfortunately the information has been used multiple times in the past few weeks. Once with Capital One, once with Household Credit, and twice with Sprint-Nextel. To prevent further such occurrences, I’ve got a 90 day Fraud Alert on the account meaning that nothing can be opened without a call to me, while apparently I’ll have to call the individual merchants fraud departments to determine next steps.

Before that, however, I’ll apparently require a police report. Obviously it will be difficult to report this in person in Denver, seeing as I’m away for the summer, but I’m hoping to be able to report this here in Maine to the Sagadahoc County Sherriff (a detective is supposed to be calling me back). A detective from Irvington, NJ was decidedly unhelpful when I spoke with him this afternoon.

The bigger question, as far as I’m concerned, is whether or not I’ll eventually have to get a new SSN. The current number has obviously been compromised, but I’ve heard horror stories about those that have changed theirs and the FTC doesn’t really recommend it either.

Anyway, this is what I would try should something similar happen to you:

  1. Visit the FTC’s site with information about next steps
  2. Contact one of the Credit Bureaus (800.525.6285, 888.397.3742, 800.888.4213 ) and file a fraud alert. You only have to call one of them – they’ll push the alert to the other two.
  3. Check your credit report, and see if there’s other activity in there that you were not aware of.
  4. File a police report. Based on my experiences thus far, this is easier said than done, but it’s required.

In theory, this should prevent things from getting worse. The operative words, of course, being “in theory.”

If any of you folks have been through this or know people that have and have suggestions, please feel free to comment. I’ve only got about four hours experience with this, myself, so I’m sure there are things I’m missing.


  1. Stephen, I’m sorry for your ordeal. I’m sure I can help. Please feel free to contact me or visit my blog. I just moved from Colorado Springs to San Antonio about 2 years ago. I miss the mountains.

  2. Dude. That. Sucks.

  3. Oh, man. I hate identity thieves.

    One time, my debit card wouldn’t work when I tried to pay for dinner. Called the bank on Monday. They asked me, “have you been in Mexico recently?”

    “No,” I replied.

    “Well, your money has.”

    Fortunately, it all worked out all right, with little hassle, but still, what a pain.

  4. That really really sucks.

  5. I think you can file a police report online for Denver. When I lived there I had some stuff stolen out of my luggage. I filed a police report from PA and didn’t have any issues. http://www.denvergov.org I am sorry that this happened.

  6. I really think that the four steps you have listed are it.

    I know that getting a new social security number can be a detrimental endeavor as the new SS# may be attached to someone that was recently deceased and very much in debt. Hence your credit file will be impacted in a negative fashion from the get-go.

    If you get a “clean” social security number. You still have to call the credit bureaus that report for you to get the old credit file transferred to you. This includes any corporations that grant loans, credit, or you do business with. I know that this is a hassle.

    Getting a new social security number may not matter if the person who stole your identity, which you may not know about, is someone in proximity to you. Family and friends can often be worse criminals than that strange neighbor down the block.

    My advice is to wait it out and further learn to protect yourself from now on. Not to plug my own blog, but very soon I will be posting videos that are related to identity theft, especially phishing and etc. and I hope that you and your blog readers can benefit from it For now I wish you all the best and make sure to follow the 4 steps to the tee.

    Good luck,

    Radek M. Gadek

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