Monday, November 27, 2006

Identity theft! Arrrggh!

Well, yet another joy of being a small business owner....yesterday afternoon I was leaving the gym when I got a text message on my PDA phone:

Re: Citibank alert/Business card/suspended right now/Fraud dept.

Someone had apparently gotten their hands on my Business credit card number and charged up $8,000 in a number of a few hours on Sunday. Wow! Glad Citibank picked that up in time. I wondered why they didn't flag it before they passed the credit limit? A slew of online purchases at >$200/each within 2 hours of each other are not my usual behavior; but hey, it's the holidays, perhaps they thought it was within the realm of possibilities. I spoke to their Fraud department, and there wasn't much they could tell me in terms of how I could have avoided this. They said, basically, there's no way to avoid it. Are we all at risk just by having a credit card? I asked if I could have set my credit card to only allow a certain amount of charges per day, but Citibank doesn't offer that. I also asked the representative if having Fraud and Identity Theft protection, you know that service they're always trying to get you to buy, would have prevented this, and the rep said "NO." (I guess that rep doesn't work in the sales dept.). Wouldn't setting a daily use limit make logical sense? I know that I don't exceed a daily amount under normal circumstances. OK, yeah, yeah, I know what you're thinking -- at least it's not as bad as getting robbed, because you can dispute the charges on the next statement, but I couldn't help but feel a bit violated. You've got to wonder how these people are able to do this with a card that is barely used? And why didn't Citibank flag this sooner? Is it because the purchases were made online?

I found this website with useful tips on how to deal with Identity Theft:

The FTC site for Fighting Back on Identity Theft

And here's what the Citibank website recommends one do in case of Identity Theft:

Identity Theft Checklist
When identity theft happens, prompt action can help limit the negative consequences. Here is a checklist to follow in the event you or an employee of your business is the victim of identity theft.

  • Contact the credit bureaus. For personal identity theft, you should contact the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. For business identity theft, you should contact Experian and Dun & Bradstreet.
  • Contact your creditors, i.e. credit card companies, mortgage companies and other finance companies with whom you have loans, credit cards or lines of credit.
  • File a police report and contact the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-IDTHEFT (1-877-438-4338).
  • Stop payment on any stolen checks.
  • Remove fraudulent phone charges by contacting your state's public utilities commission and remove fraudulent cell phone charges by calling the Federal Communications Commission at 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322).
  • Report the theft of your Social Security Number to the Social Security Administration at
  • Notify the local department of motor vehicles to ensure that someone doesn’t take out a driver’s license or register a car using your identity.
I guess one of the most important things to take care of is call the Credit bureaus and file an Fraud Alert, just in case someone tries to open a bank account or take a loan with your stolen identity. Here are the numbers:

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

Once you place the fraud alert with one, they should notify the other two credit bureaus, and you're also entitled to a free copy of your credit report to review.

Now all you have to do is type Identity theft protection on Google and you'll come up with a whole bunch of companies that promise to: "scour the black market for the use, trade or sale of your identity-related information, alerting you instantly to potential fraud."

Does one incident warrant this? I'll have to investigate further.....


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