Don't stay a victim after identity theft

August 27, 2010

My identity was hijacked. Unfortunately, that's an all too common occurrence in Glendale. And unfortunately in this Internet age, names and numbers are all also too readily available.

My first indication that something was amiss was when I received a letter from the Internal Revenue Service. It looked like an income tax filing under my name and numbers was being audited. I always jointly file with my husband, so I didn't understand why my filing was separated from his.

To cut to the chase, one call to the IRS — the customer service line is (800) 829-1040 — and I was told that the letter I received was called a "Questionable Refund Letter." The agent said in June a $7,000 refund had been sent in my name. The agent also said policy forbade them from telling me where it was sent. I assured the agent that I never received the money.


At that point, I decided to clear my name using my reporting skills. I would unearth one obstacle at a time and take voluminous notes. Those I share with you:

1. Go to the Glendale Police Department and file an "Identity Theft" report. When I did, the intake officer told me the department has three to four unlucky souls every day who come in with the same IRS letter I received. She also told me that the never-received refund amount was always the same — $6,000 to $7,000. These bad guys are smart. Any larger amount may send up red flags.

2. Call one of the three credit reporting agencies to place a 90-day "fraud alert" under your name. The agency you call will alert the other two credit reporting agencies. I called Equifax: (800) 525-6285. This service is automated. I didn't talk to a human being.

3. Try Social Security: (800) 772-1213. I say "try" because there's no way you can change your social security number short of being in the witness protection program. No help there.

4. The Federal Trade Commission must also be alerted: (877) 438-4338. A clerk will ask you for your police report number. Then, you will be given your own reference number.

5. The IRS: (800) 829-1040. Customer service gave me that number. These guys were the most helpful yet. Understandable, since the IRS is shelling out millions of dollars to the bad guys. That's taxpayer money.

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