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), www.equifax.com; P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742); www.experian.com; P.O. Box 9532, Allen, TX 75013
TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289; www.transunion.com; Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790
Ruby Bridges: civil rights icon
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