Beware of identity thieves!

By Ron O’Clair

I have been the victim of both identity theft, and now I have even had my hotmail account hijacked by an identity thief who took over my hotmail account and tried to get money from the people on my contact list.

These are the newest scams out there. I will outline what happened to me in the hopes that it will not happen to you.

In the case of outright identity theft, someone gathered my information and assumed my identity to open a Chase Bank Visa account under my name with a different address. I believe that it happened when I answered a telephone call, and the people on the other end of the line informed me that they could lower my interest rates on the credit card debt that I currently carried.

One of the requirements was that I owe at least $10.000.00 in credit card debt, and had at least one account that was still active. They pitched a good sales pitch, and answered all of my questions to my satisfaction. I thought I was dealing with a reputable firm and at the time the television and the radio was full of advertisements offering just such a service.

I was on the telephone that night for over 45 minutes talking about this, and was a bit skeptical, but definitely interested in lowering my rates which were very high on the debt that I carried at the time. I became increasingly concerned that it was a scam, but the person was very good at alleviating my concerns. I eventually gave him sensitive information that I knew that I should not give out over the telephone about my credit problems. When he asked for my mother’s maiden name, bells started going off in my head that this could be a scam, and I falsified the mother’s maiden name that I gave as a way of protecting myself.

It turns out my sixth sense was right on the money, even though I received a slick pamphlet in the mail outlining all of the services that the company offered which looked 100% legitimate. After some time had gone by, I received another telephone call, this time from the people at Chase Bank Fraud Protection. They were inquiring if recent charges made on a Chase Bank Visa account issued in my name were legitimate charges.

It was a surprise to me, seeing as I never had applied to Chase Bank for a credit card. I informed the Fraud Protection people that I never opened a Chase Bank Visa account, and that I would not be responsible for any charges made on that account. I also informed them that I had suspicions that I knew how I had become the victim of the identity theft, and told them about my having given a false mother’s maiden name to the person I suspected was scamming me. I told them the phony name I gave, and sure enough, it turned up on the application for credit.

That, and the fact that the charges were in the state of Florida in the same general area as the supposed company that had called me to lower my interest rates confirmed my suspicion that I had been victimized by a slick operation that preys on people like you and I that are just getting by. I outsmarted them by supplying the phony mother’s maiden name, and was able to pinpoint where the security breech had originated by doing so.

I had to call the local police here in Worcester to report having my identity stolen, and I had to contact the Attorney General of Massachusetts, and I had a whole list of other things that I had to do to try to straighten out my credit rating. I had to contact all three of the credit bureau’s to put it in my file that I was the victim of identity theft, and still, no matter what I did, I lost points on my credit score due to the bad debt that someone else rang up using my name. It was a nightmare, and still haunts me to this day with a lower credit score.

I questioned the Chase Bank Fraud Protection people as to how someone was able to open an account in my name, yet when the new card got activated, it did not get activated through my home telephone number that Chase Bank called me on to question the charges made to that account. The identity thieves had a good time with that card, buying all kinds of things at a Walmart down in Tampa, Florida including a large screen T.V. They also bought gasoline twice, and went out to eat a couple of times at a pub style restaurant down there in Florida. They racked up over $600.00 in charges before Chase Bank contacted me and cancelled the card.

Since that time, I have gotten on a payment plan with the accounts that I had owed too much on which were cancelled, but active for repayment. I owed a total of over $12,000.00 over all my accounts before I started on the repayment plan. I still have three credit card accounts in good standing. I have paid down my debt and will be debt free in less than a year now. I incurred the debt, and I did the right thing and made arrangements to pay back what I owed rather than declare bankruptcy, which looked pretty tempting at the time. This thing with the identity theft happened some time back, and I should have written about it before now, but a recent incident of identity theft just happened to me, and I thought that I would write about it now.

We are our own worst enemies when it comes to identity theft. If we were more careful about giving out our information only to trusted sources, they would have a much harder time taking advantage of us debtors. You have to be super vigilant as this next case will show you. I received an E-mail that looked legitimate supposedly from the Windows Microsoft Center that informed me that they were updating their database, and I needed to confirm my information or my hotmail account would be cancelled in 48 hours.

I fell for it hook, line and sinker, and clicked on the link to provide information that I thought was going to a secure site for a legitimate purpose. I provided the information requested thinking nothing of it. A few days later I got another official looking E-mail that was supposedly from the Windows Live Team, also asking for sensitive information such as my name, my account name, my password, my birthdates, and my country of origin. This E-mail presented itself as a “last warning” that if I did not provide the information requested, my hotmail account would be closed forever.

By the time I got the second one, I had already found out that someone had hijacked my hotmail account and sent E-mails out to all of my contacts with a bullshit story about my having a sick sister and that I was on my way to Madrid, Spain to help her receive a kidney transplant, and could they please contact me to arrange for a loan to help defray the costs of the transportation and the transplant. I was unaware that someone else was sending and receiving E-mails on my account that was not me.

The recipients of these E-mails thought they were getting them from me because the person that scammed me for my password had changed the delivery of my incoming messages to their own E-mail account.

I would not have known about it as soon as I did if one of my contacts had not asked me about my sick sister, and I had no idea of what she was talking about. That was my Renee, the “hot babe” that I have been having the internet romance with. We have met a couple of times, and I am happy to report that it is going well for us both. Well, when “Renee” asked me about my sick sister, I asked her what the hell she was talking about, and she E-mailed me a copy of the “Get a loan” E-mail.

I had to go into the account setting of my hotmail account to find out that someone had been having my messages forwarded to another E-mail address, and had used my password to change my settings. I also had to go to all my other accounts, Yahoo, G-mail, and Facebook to change my password, because the one I used on my hotmail account was used on all of my accounts so I did not forget what it was. That was a mistake to have the same password on all of my accounts, and they tell you not to do it, but I do it anyway to make sure I don’t forget it. I still did it, and if they get it once again, they will have access to all of my accounts again.

We are creatures of habit, and our habits can be our undoing. Now that I know what to look out for, I feel confident that I will not fall so easily for the next phishing scam that comes along. Good thing for me, all of my contacts were smart enough not to send money to what they thought was me. I sent out a hacked account E-mail to those of my contacts that I felt might have been tempted to help me out in my time of need, but I needn’t have worried, none of them did. None of my friends have money anyway, and those that do would not part with it.

I hope that this was helpful to you, and remember to not give your information to people over the telephone or the Internet who claim they are legitimate. The E-mails looked genuine and would fool most anybody so don’t fall for any that claim that unless you provide the requested information your accounts will be closed, It is a scam.

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