Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Identity Theft Warning

The message below is from my cousin ~ I wanted to share it with all of you because identity theft is a VERY real thing. And...well I feel partially responsible b/c I'm the one who suggested we sign up for the card to get the free blanket. Sorry cuz. - In any event, please be careful at Fenway Park and anywhere else you sign up for free offers, it's just one of the many ways your identity can be stolen.
Hey all. I just wanted to share with you this pain in the ass stuff I've been dealing with since last October. People who want to pay extra close attention are regulars at Fenway Park. You know those stands that are set up inside the park giving away free blankets/beanie caps/duffel bags when you sign up for a credit card? Well, last year they'd started quizzing you on your information after handing them the application before giving you your freebie...too many applications for Seymore Butts, I guess. If you didn't give them your real information, you'd be busted and not get anything but a dirty look, unless you had your bogus info memorized. Me being unprepared and freezing just gave them my real information for a free blanket, thinking it would be cool to have a card with the Sox logo on it anyway. Well, what happened to me afterward is all summarized in this copy of an email I just sent to a debt collection company that I got a notice from today:

~To Whom It May Concern:
I received a notice from your company informing me of a debt of $309.31 that is owed to Bank of America. I am disputing this claim. The mentioned debt is completely invalid. I have spoken to several customer service representatives at Bank of America over the past year who have consistently reassured me that the bills I keep receiving in the mail are the result of a technicality glitch in the system.
My troubles with this company began on October 1, 2006 when I attended a baseball game at Fenway Park. It was very cold, so I took the company up on their offer of a free blanket with the submission of an application for a credit card with their company. I filled out all the information and was warm for the rest of the game, but never received my card in the mail. To be honest, I had completely forgotten about it until mid November when I received a phone call from the company.
They informed me that a woman claiming to be me, that had personal information of mine such as my social security number and mother's maiden name, had attempted to activate my card over the phone. The woman told them that she would be traveling out of the country, so foreign charges would probably be made and the company should not become alarmed. The representative of the company told me that the card was not activated because the phone number the woman was calling from was not the one I had indicated as my home phone on the application. She informed me that my confirmation of this fraud would be cause enough to make the account close immediately before it ever opened. Relieved, I left it at that.
However, in December I received a bill with charges from jewelery shops in Beijing and returned check fees. I'm assuming these were for those credit card checks that often get sent with the card for the user's
"convenience". I then called Bank of America again and they assured me I would not be held responsible for any of these charges. I also proceeded to file a report with my local police department, file a security alert with the three major credit report companies, and save all the documents that were sent to me regarding this matter before and since. It seemed to be over.
The following months, however, revealed different. All though all of the Beijing charges were removed, I was still being sent statements that showed that I was expected to pay the interest on those charges. The first statement said I owed $110.52. The first three months that I had received statements like these, I called customer service, each time being reassured that I would not be held responsible for any charges and the credit score that I've worked so hard to build would not be affected. I was told that I may see statements for a month or two more, because the company needed to keep the account open to investigate the credit fraud case a little while longer. Well, after those three phone calls I became resigned to the fact that I would just continue to receive these statements and should not worry about them because they wouldn't affect me. Since then, the amount owed has grown from $110.52 to $309.31. I'd written it off as a minor annoyance.
However, today I received a notice from your company specializing in debt collection informing me that this matter has evolved into something more. Although the letter was eloquently written with just hints of gentle persuasion, all I could visualize when I saw the term "debt collector" was two huge men showing up at my job to break my thumbs. It's greatly affected my peace of mind. I know none of this is your company's fault, and I'm only going on like this because I want to make sure I make myself perfectly clear. This debt is invalid. I did not make any of the charges on this account. I never even received the card...the only country I've ever been to outside the U.S. is Canada! I guess all I really want to know from you is if this email is sufficient for a formal dispute or if I should send you a signed letter, because to be honest I'm so bitter about the whole thing that I don't even want to spend money on a stamp to resolve the matter! All Bank of America has done has ensured that I will never ever do business with them again. I had never had any accounts with them before this incident, and now I never will. I will inform them of all the same things I have told you, but I'm still completely unsure of what they want from me! Do you think they want the free blanket back? They can have it if it will make the whole thing stop, even though I've affectionately dubbed it my "social-security blanket". In all seriousness though, please instruct me on how to proceed. Thank you for your time.

Yours Very Truly,
BassKo ~
Okay, obviously I didn't sign the letter BassKo, but I figured that if you wanted to share this warning/tale of woe with your own friends, I really didn't want my real name shown to complete strangers...I've had enough of that shit.

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