By Catherine Keydeniers, Meriwest Trainer
Two weeks ago - Tuesday, August 25, 2015 - marked the 25th month and 23rd day since my identity was stolen and my last fraudulent loan was finally removed from my credit report!
To celebrate and hopefully educate our members, I wanted to share some information about my experience and my two favorite vendors: CreditKarma and Deluxe Provent, Meriwest's identity theft protection provider.
It was June 2, 2013. I was standing in line for California Screamin' at Disneyland with my husband and our family when I suddenly noticed an alert on my phone from CreditKarma.com. I had signed up for their free credit monitoring service about a year prior upon the high recommendation of Meriwest's former Community Relations Manager during his training class on identity theft.
Credit Karma notified me that I had just applied for credit and I had a credit inquiry on my credit report. "No I didn't!!!" I'm in line at Disneyland! I am NOT applying for credit right now!" My stomach began to churn and I wasn't even on the ride yet!
That was a Sunday. First thing Monday morning, back at work, I pulled my free annual credit reports from Experian, Equifax AND Transunion. I reviewed every listed inquiry and began calling.
Soon after, I discovered that someone had stolen my identity. The thief was using my first name, previous married name, date of birth, and social security number but with addresses in other California cities. In the time frame of about one week, they had established garbage service, PG&E, Comcast Cable, taken out a payday lender loan and a loan through a finance company.
I took action right away by:
- Filing a police report and ordering copies
- Filing an identity theft report online with the Federal Trade Commission, printing the report, and making copies
- Placing a block on all three credit bureaus with an identity theft alert and instructions to call me for any future credit inquiries before extending any new credit
- Placing a credit block on ChexSystems in case anyone tried to open bank accounts in my name
- Calling every creditor with a listed inquiry to determine if anything had been fraudulently opened in my name and to inquire what their processes to prove identity theft and have the loans, inquiries, and collection accounts removed from my credit reports
This process alone took me months to complete. About six months after the identity theft took place, Meriwest Credit Union announced we were offering Identity Theft Protection to our members through Deluxe Provent. Deluxe Provent offers identity theft protection on all fronts, including: Prevention, Detection, and Restoration.
I called immediately! One of my life philosophies is that it never hurts to ask. The worst that can happen is getting a “No” which leaves you no worse off than you were before you asked. I called and spoke to a credit restoration agent and asked if I was able to sign up for their monthly service to use their restoration piece even though I was already an identity theft victim. I spoke with Crystal, who reviewed the details of my case and stated that because the incident was still fairly new and minimal damage had occurred and I had already done most of the initial ground work, they could take my case.
Two years and a month and a half later my credit is finally clear of every fraudulent credit inquiry, loan and collection account. It’s crazy that in probably less than 30 minutes someone impersonated me for financial gain but it took me 25+months to prove that it wasn’t me. It’s scary that it’s easier to pretend to be me than it is to actually be me!
I encourage every credit consumer to put two things in place IMMEDIATELY: Credit Monitoring and Credit Restoration protection! I love CreditKarma because their credit monitoring is free efficient monitoring at its best. And now I also love Deluxe Provent for their low monthly identity theft Prevention, Detection and Restoration. I will NEVER be without this protection again!
Another well-known and respected credit monitoring and restoration provider is LifeLock, BUT if you are already a Meriwest Member; Deluxe Provent is the way to go! Sign up today at Meriwest.com. You will be as happy as I am that you did!
***If you want to learn more about how you can protect your identity, you're invited to attend our FREE “Preventing Identity Theft” seminar on Thursday, September 17th at 6:00 p.m.!