A few months ago I learned of a friend who had gotten a letter in the mail (yes that is still a method of communication) that he thought was junk. It was from PayPal Credit. He assumed the company was soliciting his business to open an account with them. For whatever reason, just as he was about to drop it unopened into the recycle bag, he changed his mind and decided to see what actually was inside.
Lucky for him he made that decision because it was a bill from PayPal Credit, stating he owed over $950 for a charge he had made at a retailer he did not recognize. And besides, he never opened a PayPal Credit account. But it turns out, someone else had, using his name, address and Social Security number.
He was quite convinced that this whole thing was a scam but at the time didn’t realize what kind of scam. He thought it was some would-be thief, posing as PayPal Credit to get more of his personal information. That notion prompted him to contact the company and to his dismay he discovered that the account in his name was indeed opened “properly”- his credit history was verified by Equifax, the company PayPal Credit uses to ascertain credit worthiness and that the retailer he allegedly made his purchase from was an online merchant that sells outdoor furniture among other things.
My friend discovered his identity had been stolen and he now had to go through all the steps recommended by the federal government and, of course, Consumers Empowered. He filed a fraud complaint with PayPal Credit, put a fraud alert on all three credit checking companies (Equifax, Experian and Trans Union), filed a fraud alert with the Federal Trade Commission and filed a police report with his local police department. PayPal Credit shut down the account immediately and did verify that it was bogus. So my friend was not held liable for any of the charges but has been shaken that his information is just floating around in cyber space for any would-be thief to latch onto.
The lesson here is: 1. Open your mail, even if you think it’s just junk because today we can’t be sure. 2. If your identity or any personal information about you is stolen, follow all the above steps to protect yourself from further fraud. 3. Get copies of your credit reports every year. They are provided free of charge from all three credit reporting agencies.
Identity theft is not a victimless crime. If the person whose identity has been compromised doesn’t take the proper action, further serious problems could occur. Additionally, as in this case, PayPal Credit gets stuck for the cost of the merchandise, which had been delivered days before the bill got sent.
In today’s high tech world, there’s no such thing as being too careful. Being just a little paranoid really paid off in this situation.
Lee Greene, Guest Blogger