The Credit Story

I recall a movie – it’s title escapes me – that seems parallel to this lastest experience I have undergone. The movie is centered around a young man who is dealing with what is portrayed as both a curse and a gift. Simply put, he is lucky. ALL THE TIME. It is like having a lifetime supply of Felix Felicus. In one scene of the film, he is out with his girlfriend and leaving the restaurant he is mugged and then stabbed. Not very lucky you say? Well, it turns out that when undergoing medical treatment to treat his wound, it is discovered that he has cancer or the plague or organ failure or whatever. Had he not been stabbed this life threatening and unnoticed and untreated condition would have killed him. In other words, it was lucky he did get stabbed or he would have died.

There is no death in my tale, but there are some other similarities. I have been looking for a home to purchase and the realtor I am working with passed on the contact information to their in-house mortgage broker. This past Friday, I called her and let her run the numbers and look up my credit. I was fairly confident of what she would find. Months earlier, I ran my own credit report and discovered my FICO score, which was in the 770’s – an excellent number.

Betty called me that night on the way home, “You have very good credit, except for one problem.”

What kind of problem, I ask.

“Well, it seems you opened a credit card in August with a limit of $5,000 and have charged $4,800 so far without making a payment.”

Fuck. First of all, I never opened a credit card in August. In fact, I have made sure to only have TWO credit cards – an AMEX and a Visa for those non-AMEX entities. I have always been extremely careful about debt. But what Betty just told me was a coincidence of some magnitude. The week previous, I received a phone call from a number I did not recognize. I did not pick up and they did not leave a voicemail. So, like most other times that happens, I Googled the number. There seem to be some consintency that it was some kind of a scam and the person calling claims you owe money on a credit card that you don’t have.

When they called back later on, I decided to have some fun. I answered. I wasn’t going to be outwardly rude, but I was going to be very cautious and far from nervous.

“Is this Daniel?”

“Yup.”

“I’m calling today because you are past due on your Chase account and I was wondering how can we fix this.”

“Cool. One problem, I don’t have a Chase credit card.”

“Is this Daniel Hannah?”

“Yup.”

“You opened a Chase card in August.”

“Not me, pal.”

“Could you provide me with the last four digits of your social security number to verify the account?”

“No, I will not be giving you my social security number.”

“Is this Daniel of Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin?”

“Not even close. That is not my address.”

We parted, but not as friends. But fast forward a week later and I’m suddenly feeling like a fool for not asking more questions. Because what he was saying was 100% true. Someone claiming to be me opened a brand new credit card under my name with a limit of $5,000. This person had since charged $4,787 without making one payment. It gets better. Betty sent me the report she pulled with the number to Chase. Apparently, whoever opened this card, also tried to open a Citibank, a Capital One, a Discover, and an American Express card. I know this because each of one of those companies checked my credit report on almost the same exact day in August.

That night, I called Chase and spoke to “Rena” and “Megan”… who clearly were not in my same time zone. I managed to prove who I was… you know? Me? And they closed the account, said I was notĀ responsibleĀ for the charges and you would be contacting the credit bureaus. In addition, I filed an ID Theft complaint with the FTC, filed a report for my home county, set up a 90 day fraud alert at TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax. I also emailed the Sheriff’s Department for the county where the address reported to.

I was not stabbed. My life was not in danger. But had I not been actively looking for a home (something I don’t really want to do and haven’t envisioned myself doing a year ago) and had I not called Betty to inquire about a mortgage, then things would have been much, much worse.

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