I’ve been a victim of identity theft not once, but twice. So, you can be sure that I’m always aware my identity can be stolen.
The first incident happened a few years ago. I was checking my bank account balance online when I noticed a problem. The bank showed I had $900 less in my account than I expected to have. I immediately called my wife to see if she might have made a purchase without telling me. Of course, she hadn’t. When I checked into where the money might have gone, I found out that purchases were being made on eBay—using my money!
My next step was to check my email to see if I could learn anything about these eBay transactions and get the problem resolved. When I tried to access my account, my email password wouldn’t work. The identity thief had not only taken my money, he had also changed my email account password!
By changing my password and gaining access to my email, he had been able to utilize my Pay Pal account on eBay, since Pay Pal was linked to my email. Without my knowledge, the thief had been making eBay purchases for sporting equipment in my name and having the items shipped outside the United States.
Once I figured out the scam and was able to regain access to my email, I could see messages the identity thief had written to the eBay sellers who had sold him products. One seller, upon seeing the account holder was a U.S. resident, had already questioned the thief about his request to ship items out of the country. Fortunately, now that I had control of my email account again, I was able to contact the eBay sellers myself and warn them about the scam so they would not ship any product.
My next step was to file a police report. Unfortunately, the police were not able to help me because the fraud had happened outside the United States. Sadly, this was out of their jurisdiction and there was nothing they could do for me.
I then contacted my bank where immediate action was taken. Next I contacted Pay Pal. They immediately froze my account so they could investigate further.
Although Pay Pal money returned my money in less than two weeks, my account with them is still frozen to this day. I’ve been told I could have my Pay Pal account restored if I will simply send them my original marriage certificate and social security card. Unfortunately, I won’t be doing this since it could compromise the safety of my identity in the future.
I had to exchange a number of emails with eBay in order to restore my account with them. The identity thief had won 10 bids with my username, and there were a number of forms I had to fill out to cancel the purchases. I also changed my eBay user id and password to further protect myself.
My identity was stolen through no fault of my own. Pay Pal had recently been hacked into and most likely this is how the thief got access to my password. However, this hasn’t kept me from taking extra steps to protect myself. I now have longer, more difficult to remember passwords on my accounts—and I never share them with anyone. I also check my credit report regularly to confirm everything looks as it should. Although this situation ended well, it was a hassle to get it resolved and I wouldn’t want to go through this again.