Category Archives: identity theft

No Forwarding Address

Sometime last year, we started getting mail for a Hrishikesh Samant at our home. We have been at this address for nine years and the people who lived here before were not so named either. I thought it would be an easy matter to Google the name and perhaps trying to contact him. No such luck; there seems to be at least a geology and/or zoology professor in Mumbai, India and a GIS expert in the US. Here’s a video of one of them. Or maybe it’s all the same guy. But it doesn’t explain while mail, including utility bills, cable bills, and items of the sort started arriving at our door in that name.

So I decided that perhaps I should contact the authorities to see if someone was trying to perpetrate some fraud in Mr. Samant’s seemingly good name(s). I contacted the postal authorities. They told me to just return to sender. After three or four months, the mailings have seemed to stop.

Now we are getting mail for Gwen Powell. It’s all what we would consider junk mail. Moreover, we at least have a theory about how we came to get “Gwen’s mail”. My wife’s given surname, her “maiden name” if you will, is Powell. A C and a G have similar structures; the line of the G plus ar could be construed as a w, I suppose. In cursive, o and e both have loops. I need to contact these vendors to get “Gwen” off their mailing list.
There was a story this week in the local paper about an a 11-year-old boy who pedaled his bicycle into the path of a car and later died. Very sad story made worse by the fact that he waited 25 minutes for an ambulance to arrive. Someone on Twitter commented that the fact that the driver of the car wasn’t ticketed was tantamount to getting away with “murder”, and used that specific word.

Now few people complain more about how irresponsible car drivers are vis a vis bicyclists than I do. I got a broken rib about 50 weeks ago from trying to avoid a car running through a traffic light. But the facts in the case – the boy’s bike hit the passenger-side door – suggests that the boy either didn’t see the car, had his brakes fail or some other circumstance. In any case, the driver, who will undoubtedly be traumatized for a long time, doesn;’t need apparently unfounded claims of murder bandied about.


QUESTION: Political Mind

1. So how did you get to think like that? Was it a function of your parents?

My parents were Republicans when I was growing up. But being a Republican in New York in the 1960s meant moderate people like Nelson Rockefeller, Jacob Javits, Kenneth Keating (all from NY), William Scranton (PA) and George Romney (MI), not so incidentally the father of Mitt. As the Republican party got more conservative, starting with Nixon’s “southern strategy” which followed LBJ’s signing of the Civil rights Act of 1964, the Democrats became comparative more liberal.

2. Were your parents politically active? Did they talk politics with you?

My father was socially active. though he had a full-time job, he was also a community organizer, keeping the kids off the streets and engaged in meaningful activities. (I must digress here. I’ve seen a number of folks note that Martin Luther King Jr. and even even Jesus Christ were community organizers, which I would argue is largely true. Doesn’t mean Obama is saying he’s MLK or Jesus, any more than if I said I’m for peace so I must be just like Gandhi.)

I don’t remember my parents working campaigns or even putting up bumper stickers or fliers. I do recall talking to them about their votes in the 1968 election, when I talked them into voting for Hubert humphrey rather than Dick Gregory.

3. Have you ever worked on a political campaign?

A few times. the first was supporting Bill Burns for mayor of Binghamton, NY in 1969, I think, in any case, before i could actually vote. Beyond blowing up balloons, I don’t recall what I did. Did more for McGovern in 1972, for naught. My next effort, in 1974, was more successful . I think I’ve only worked four other campaigns, in 1980 (lost), 1995 (won), and two this century, but only because friends of mine wee running – and they both won!
OK, I’ll admit that publicizing the fact that, as a result of a class action lawsuit, TransUnion is offering free credit monitoring, and doing so on every platform to which I have access is partly in retaliation for TransUnion and the other credit reporting companies trying to sell me stuff for which I was entitled to for free when I had my identity theft scare. Still I want everyone to take advantage of the deal, and you have less than two weeks to do so.


Roger's Auto Loan

Sometime late last month, there was a message from a local car dealership wanting to verify my information “for the car loan you had applied for”. seems reasonable except that I had not applied for an auto loan. I called the number back when I got home, got the voice mail of the woman who called me, and left a message that I didn’t request an auto loan.

A couple days later, another representative from this same car dealership called me with the exact same message. This time, I called back, asking the woman to call me at work – I gave her my number. the next day, she called me back – at home – noting that she had gotten my call. So I called back, got a supervisor and let it be known that 1) I did noty want a car loan, and that 2) apparently, no one communicates in therir company.

On July 3, I got yet ANOTHER call. I had gotten home early from work that day so I called back, got a real live person and asked why I had gotten these THREE calls. She looked on the computer and saw only one notation, the one for that day. Apparently, the dealership gets leads from some online service, for which the dealership pays a commission. When it doesn’t pan out, the dealership expunges the record from the system. The representative gave me the phone number of the online network.

I laid out this now annoying scenario to the online company’s rep, and he says that “anyone can put in the information.” They don’t trace it, or have verifiable passwords. I asked what information he had on “me”:
Name – check
Address – check
Phone number – check
Date of birth: January 4, 1987. Yeah that’s right, I’m 21. That picture I post now and then is doctored to make me appear older.
Monthly rent paid: $7000 a month. Yup, and I make more than thrice that. Librarians are rich, I tell you, rich!
I did laugh out loud with that one.

The rep gave me a website of the Social Security Administration dealing with fraud, but I called the number and it did not appear to be the place I wanted to be.

So, I went to the FTC website and found this nugget:

1. Place a fraud alert on your credit reports, and review your credit reports.

Fraud alerts can help prevent an identity thief from opening any more accounts in your name. Contact the toll-free fraud number of any of the three consumer reporting companies below to place a fraud alert on your credit report. You only need to contact one of the three companies to place an alert. The company you call is required to contact the other two, which will place an alert on their versions of your report, too. If you do not receive a confirmation from a company, you should contact that company directly to place a fraud alert.

I called Equifax and sure enough, I soon discovered I had a fraud alert from Experian and TransUnion.

Once you place the fraud alert in your file, you’re entitled to order one free copy of your credit report from each of the three consumer reporting companies, and, if you ask, only the last four digits of your Social Security number will appear on your credit reports. Once you get your credit reports, review them carefully. Look for inquiries from companies you haven’t contacted, accounts you didn’t open, and debts on your accounts that you can’t explain. Check that information, like your Social Security number, address(es), name or initials, and employers are correct. If you find fraudulent or inaccurate information, get it removed.

Getting the free credit report was increasingly difficult as I went from reporting company to reporting company. Experian was trying to sell it to me, and TransUnion asked questions about what type of credit cards and loans I had, some of which I didn’t have on hand or didn’t jibe with what they were looking for. Really, I have a VISA that ends with XXXX; why don’t you believe me?)

I have received my three FREE credit reports. Apparently, no harm was done to me. The initial fraud alert lasts 90 days, at which time I need to document a need for a seven-year one.

Meanwhile, don’t expect to see me in a new car anytime soon.
Equifax (1-800-525-6285),; P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241

Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742);; P.O. Box 9532, Allen, TX 75013

TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289;; Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790

"Dorothy", Part 2

Back on June 1, I did this summary column of all the things that I had learned in a month of blogging. The title above comes from “What Have You Learned, Dorothy?” from The Wizard of Oz (1939). That quote did NOT make the AFI’s top 400 quotes, though six Oz quotes did, let alone the Top 100 movie quotes (3 Oz gems.) I’ve liked this quote because of the delivery by Glinda (Billie Burke) of the word LEARNED.

I’ve LEARNED that I have nothing to say about the new War of the Worlds movie opening this week, even though it was partially filmed in Athens, NY, near here, except to say that I LOVE it when a big film hits a small town; it seems to really enhance the collective ego of the place. I especially have nothing to say about Tom and Katie.

I wrote about identity theft on June 10, but the worst was yet to come. The story about the breach in security that put 40 million credit cards at risk comes out. So, what’s the advice we get? “Be vigilant.” Check your statements for unauthorized expenditures, and whatnot.
I’ve LEARNED that I’m feeling TIRED of being “vigilant”. Watching for the next terrorist/shark attack/industrial disease/assault on civil liberties/illegal incursion is exhausting enough. But having to be wary of the faceless interlocking conglomerate that seems to know more about me than I do makes me want to take all of my money and stuff it under my pillow. But if everyone did THAT, I’ve been told, it would wreck this economy.

Speaking of money, I’ve LEARNED that when I need 75 cents for a vending machine, little is more frustrating than having two quarters, two dimes and 13 pennies.

I’ve LEARNED that throwing money at a problem is a lot easier that changing hearts. This is why Bob Geldof’s Live 8 concerts tomorrow is much more remarkable than the Live Aid concerts two decades ago. Sir Bob is trying to make a systemic change in the attitudes and policies of the G8 nations towards the poorer nations, such as those in Africa.

I’ve LEARNED that Heather Mills McCartney (that’s the wife of Sir Paul) visited “Philip” and “addressed his worry and fears, and counseled him about living life as an amputee” on the June 29 episode of the NBC soap Days of Our Lives, and she is expected to appear once more, on the July 4 show. If she hasn’t already, expect her to talk about Adopt a Minefield, a topic close to her heart.

Burning the flag was my Flag Day message. So, of course, the House subsequently passes an amendment that would allow Congress the right to pass a law banning flag-burning. It still has to pass the Senate and then pass muster in 38 states. I’ve LEARNED that some legislation just seems to have a life of its own.

I’ve LEARNED that it is Canada Day and I had to LOOK UP the name of the Prime Minister. It may be conjecture on my part, but I’m guessing that most Canadians can name the U.S. President.

I’ve LEARNED that I can scoop even intrepid writers like Fred Hembeck (June 23).

I’ve LEARNED that Lynn Moss, who I had immortalized on this page recently, is amazingly clever. She figured out the hotel problem in the last episode of the Jeopardy! story was Bill Clinton! My, that Julie has bright parents!

I’ve LEARNED how to link to a single entry on my blog, although not everyone else’s.

I’ve LEARNED that at least two of my sister Leslie’s friends are reading this blog.

I’ve LEARNED that my cholesterol is down from 204 last June to 176 this June. I’d like to say it was diet and exercise, so I will: bad diet and lack of exercise. But no pharmaceuticals.

I’ve LEARNED that Lydia is 23 pounds (50th percentile) and 33 inches (70th percentile), as of yesterday.

I’ve LEARNED that I am even more evil than Hemby in getting people to start blogs, like I did to my poor friend Lori, and I will continue to do so. Nothing will stop me. HEH, HEH, HEH!

Hello, It's NOT Me

I have a CitiBank credit card. Naturally, I was thrilled to hear this week that information on nearly four million CitiGroup customers was lost. Lost by UPS. Lost in transit to one of the credit reporting bureaus. Oops! I don’t know that this particular boo boo will affect me personally, but it does create a certain dis-ease.

There have been several companies, including large banks and retailers, who have announced that information about customers or employees, including credit-card information, had been compromised. As I understand it, this does not necessarily reflect an increase in these types of events, but is rather in response to a California law requiring notification to customers of a security breach that could potentially allow for identity theft.

If you’re not from California, you might say, “So what?”

So this: with about a sixth of the country’s population residing in the Golden State, it was easier for Bank of America to admit last February that it lost computer backup tapes containing personal information publicly, rather than parcing out which of the 1.2 million charge cards that were potentially compromised had a California connection.

But what to do about the larger problem of identity theft?

One thing everyone should do is get a FREE copy of your credit report from each of the credit reporting companies once every 12 months. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has a brochure, Your Access to Free Credit Reports, explaining your rights and how to order a free annual credit report.

Now, I haven’t taken advantage of this because the free reports have been phased in during a nine-month period, starting on the West Coast last December 1, to the Midwest on March 1, to the South on June 1. It won’t be until September 1 that free reports will be accessible to everybody, including those in CT, DE, ME, MD, MA, NH, N J, NY!, NC, PA, RI, VT, VA, WV, DC, PR, and all U.S. territories.

There’s a toll-free number to order the report: 877-322-8228, or by completing the request form on the FTC site and mailing it. The instructions read like this:
“When you order, you need to provide your name, address, Social Security number, and date of birth. To verify your identity, you may need to provide some information that only you would know, like the amount of your monthly mortgage payment.” In other words, the FTC doesn’t want a tool designed to prevent ID theft to become a tool to PERPETRATE ID theft; clever bureaucrats they are.

I did a presentation on identity theft a couple years ago at a conference. I don’t think it went as well as it should have, partly because, frankly, a lot of the participants knew as much as I did. But, FWIW, here are some recommended other tools if you think your credit has been compromised:

  • Putting a fraud alert on your credit reports (companies should call you to verify your identity whenever they check your credit report with the intention of opening an account in your name or making any changes to an existing one.), at all three credit bureaus — Equifax (800-525-6285), Experian (888-397-3742) and TransUnion (800-680-7289). And do so every 90 days.
  • Consider signing up for a credit monitoring service. I utilize this myself.
  • Tell your beneficiaries, since the Social Security numbers of the beneficiaries on your 401(k) account or life insurance policy might be compromised as well.
  • Change your bank account numbers.
  • Insist on identifiers other than your Social Security number. I’ve had testy conversations with health care providers who insist on my Social Security number when is not my health ID number. My insurance company allowed for non-SS ID numbers a couple years ago, and I was one of a relatively few who took advantage, but as of this year, all the ID numbers are bizarre alphanumerics, which suits me fine.
  • Opt out of pre-approved credit offers by calling the Automated Credit Reporting Industry (888-567-8688).
    There are some others, but you get the picture.

    It seems to me that this type of white-collar crime is finally getting its due share of contempt.