A few months ago I was making a deposit in my bank account. As I looked at the receipt the ATM spewed out at me, I looked at the numbers. Something was weird. I looked at the account history and there was that odd number again.

$400+ withdrawn one day, and then on the same day it was deposited back into the account. Stupidly, I thought it was just some type of mistake and the bank had made an error. Although I had a nagging feeling about it, I didn’t do anything. That is, until the next day when I received a notification from the bank that the account I share with my husband had been overdrawn and we were being penalized $36. I didn’t even recognize the merchant the amount was being paid to.

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identity theft

I was irritated and upset. This was an account we had rarely used and only kept for a few items that were automatically debited out of the account every month. I called the bank and assumed this would be cleared-up right away.

I was wrong. When I called the bank I told them I had no idea what this charge was for. They explained that I or the husband had tried to make an electronic payment towards one of our credit cards.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough money in the account at the time and the bank denied the payment. I told them that we did not have any account with the credit card the payment was being made to. I was sternly told that this was an issue I should take up with the credit card company and try to make monthly payments that I could afford. My jaw dropped.

I was in shock. Apparently I was suffering from some type of amnesia since I didn’t know I had this credit card account nor did the husband. The customer service representative and I went back and forth about the payment and the credit card company. The rep finally agreed to delete the overdraft fee, but kept insisting that this was a charge I had made in payment towards a credit card balance.

What proof do you have, I asked him? I tried to be calm as I explained to him that the husband and I did not ever have a credit card with this company. This was a case of identity fraud. After thirty minutes, I was still nowhere. When I asked for a supervisor, the rep told me that there was nothing a supervisor could do to assist me anymore than he had.

Instead of trying to argue my case, I hung up the phone in disgust. This bank has ads in magazines and on TV about how they’ll be 100% behind you if you ever fall victim to identity theft. On their website, they tout how they will walk with you through the necessary steps to resolve these problems. They’ll help you report this breach with three major credit reporting agencies. Information will be given on how to file a police report, you’ll receive an information packet, investigate what happened.

Yeah, right. After a second and third phone call, investigations supposedly occurred on their end, but we were later sent a vague letter notifying us that they did not find any fraudulent activity and that this was a situation we needed to take to our credit card company and deal with them.

They were still under the incorrect assumption that this credit account was ours. Three months later, we finally closed the account, but we’re still trying to put together the pieces of this frustrating puzzle. When your identity gets stolen or there is an attempt to use your identity to gain something else, it’s a distinct violation of privacy. Don’t feel helpless.

Take aggressive steps right away to get your identity back and prevent any more loss of money. Contact the three credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian and Transunion. You can have a fraud alert placed on your credit report so that creditors will take some steps to verify your identity.

The fraud alert is effective for 90 days. If you still want the fraud alert in place after 90 days, contact the credit reporting agency and renew the alert. A fraud alert does not fully prevent someone from stealing your identity. You can also file a credit freeze, which prevents potential creditors from accessing your credit report and therefore preventing anyone from opening an account in your name.

New accounts can only be opened if the credit freeze is lifted. Go to Consumer’s Union to find out what your state’s law says about its freeze law and any fees you have to pay. These credit reporting agencies will also send you a free copy of your credit report.

Make sure you carefully examine every account and ensure that all the information is correct. If there is information that is incorrect, notify the agency immediately. Then contact those creditors with the incorrect information. Immediately close the account(s) that have been accessed or targeted.

If your bank account was accessed, call the Customer Service Department, let them know what has happened and ask for the Fraud Department. Credit card companies have similar departments. Make sure you ask your creditor to mail a letter or statement confirming that your account has been closed. If there are fraudulent charges, make sure those are also cleared by your creditor.

File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. This is a detailed, but simple process that will alert the government of the fraud and can help track down the thief. Go to your local police department and file a report.

Also bring your copy of the FTC complaint form. This step is crucial. Creditors are reluctant to give you any information regarding an account to protect their customers. With a police report in hand, you can request the credit card company give you information about the account that was opened — billing address, the date it was opened, signatures on documents, etc.

Make sure you document everything! Any time you talk to a creditor, the FTC or the police write down the date, time, who you spoke with, and what occurred during that conversation. Just because you’re a victim of identity theft, doesn’t mean you are helpless. Take immediate action to protect yourself, your family and financial future. Fight back.

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