Being the victim of identity theft is messy.
You need to notify lenders of any fraud, change account numbers and passwords, carefully monitor your accounts and keep a close eye on your credit reports. Fortunately, you won’t typically be held responsible for any charges in your name made by the fraudster as long as you report them in a timely manner.
But what happens when a financial institution decides it doesn’t believe you?
That’s what Peter Carbonara has been battling since February.
He first noticed something was amiss when he was billed by T-Mobile for a new pink iPhone. He looked at the account online and it had an address in the Bronx. Carbonara lives in Maplewood.
“After some wrangling on the phone with me, T-Mobile told me they wouldn’t void the charge but once I paid my bill, they’d issue me a credit for the charges for the new phone and number I hadn’t ordered,” he said. “Gee, thanks.”
But at least he wouldn’t be out any money.
Around the same time, he received a new Visa card from USAA, of which he is a member. But he hadn’t applied for a new card, he said.
He called USAA to report the card and ask for the account to be cancelled.
“I cut the card in two and threw it away,” he said.
But then the next month, there was a pending US$3,000 (RM13,135) payment to USAA Visa on his Wells Fargo checking account.
“Turns out there had been previous smaller payments already made, one of US$200 (RM875) and one of US$8 (RM35), which I had not noticed,” he said. “I called Wells Fargo, told them I had not authorised the big charge and had them issue a stop payment order.”
That’s when he realised that whoever had gotten into his T-Mobile account also had access to his Wells Fargo and USAA accounts.
He changed all his passwords and security codes and reported it to USAA, which said it would open a fraud investigation.
“I was told that I’d continue automatically to get bills until their investigation was completed, which could take up to 90 days,” Carbonara said, and he asked USAA to close any credit accounts in his name.
In the weeks that followed, USAA’s investigation determined it was not fraud, documents show. It said the account was past due and Carbonara needed to pay.
“I’ve told them several times by phone that the card was not mine — its billing address is somewhere in the Bronx, where I have never lived and it does not match the Maplewood address where I get statements on USAA car, auto and life insurance accounts,” he said. “Now the balance on the account is about US$6,000 (RM26,271), mostly cash advances from ATM machines in upper Manhattan, according to the statement I see online.”
When the collection calls began, he asked Bamboozled for help.
Asking for a fix
We reviewed the bills and Carbonara’s correspondence with USAA, and we asked it to review the case.
The same day, Carbonara received a call from USAA.
“She told me that her records showed the card had been cancelled, which I knew, and that I should not be getting any more invoices,” he said. “I told her I’d heard that before and I would believe it when I saw it.”
After he hung up, he checked online and the credit card had indeed been removed from his account.
USAA didn’t immediately respond to repeated requests about the case and the status of his credit reports.
But Carbonara shared an email he received from USAA.
“Our records indicate that the credit card account is closed as fraud and you will not be receiving any calls regarding the account,” it said. “A request has also been resent to the credit bureaus to have the account removed.”
Carbonara said he’s glad this was straightened out but he’s still disappointed and angry with USAA.
“The experience of having somebody steal your identity is really disconcerting, you feel victimised, and they just made it worse,” he said, adding that the representatives he spoke to were kind but were seemingly unable to help. “The only thing that motivated the higher-ups to act was the threat of publicity.”
“I used to be a satisfied customer and take their whole ‘military/professionalism’ image seriously. Not any more,” he said. – nj.com/Tribune News Service