The Soapbox Papers

The Soapbox Papers is my two-cents worth.

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Location: Beloit, Wisconsin, United States

I am a cross between Tinkerbell and Calamity Jane.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Who in the World Wants to be ME?

You may have gathered from reading this that I don't have much to my name that most would consider of value. Yet someone stole my identity, and I still can't figure out how. I get my bank statements mid-month, and in March I noted that I was in the red nearly $550. Someone had charged nearly $200 to my account - and subsequent charges for being overdrawn amounted to nearly $350.

Now, I haven't been well in a long time, and I tend to prioritize things according to the attention they demand. I admit I am not a monthly balance-the-checkbook person. In my reasoning, I don't have to be. I have one income, my Social Security Disability check, and I keep track of what I spend. I know, roughly, what is in my account, and while the balance will never make the neighbors envious, I thought I was building up a bumper fund in there, so when such things as car insurance come due I don't have to sacrifice anything to pay it. In March I decided to take a peek and see how my little bumper was doing, because I had hoped to make a trip to Wisconsin this year, as I have the past two years. Imagine my surprise and shock.

It seems someone had, on February 22, charged my account for SBC-DSL. Twice. On March 9, someone again charged my account for SBC-DSL - four times. Each of these was a new account, apparently, and by the time I got to the bank with my statement on March 17, the first two accounts had started to cycle to their second payments, and while I was conversing with my banker, four more charges were added as the others began to cycle. Now I don't know anything about SBC-DSL -- I have been a Verizon Broadband customer for over a year -- but there was a number to call, and with my banker, I called it and connected to SBC's Customer Service -- which is located in the Phillipines. (Verizon's Customer Service - at least for residential phone service - is in India) Between the banker and a very assertive I, Customer Service stopped asking me stupid questions ("What is the name of this account? What is the e-mail on this account?" "There IS no account," I bellered. "I - the owner of the account you folks have charged all these accounts TO - did not OPEN an account with SBC.") I managed to get the ear of a supervisor, who spoke to my banker to get transaction numbers and then gave me a confirmation number that these charges would be reimbursed to my checking account. Once that was done, my banker assured me, the bank charges against my account would be removed. I don't know that my Visa check card was used, but I had it shut down at once.

Meanwhile, I had the month of March to get through. By the end of March, SBC still had not made good on their promise to reimburse my account. I had the service address in Texas, sent them a registered priority mail letter reminding them of the confirmation number and telling them that I would be filing a fraud affidavit the following Friday if the funds were not in my account by then. They were not there. I did file the affidavit, with the help of my banker, and slowly funds started to come back - first the SBC funds, then from the bank. Sigh.

I now go into the bank and cash checks to get shopping money - which I hate - rather than use a check card. I now check my bank statements for anything out of the ordinary, even if I don't balance my account every month. And I did lose a large amount (well, large to me -- ) of cash I kept at home (thank goodness) for emergencies. It got me through with sufficient cat food to keep Liberty happy, and litter (ditto) rent, medications, and gas for my car. I did have a goodly supply of food on hand-- I always keep full cupboards -- so that wasn't a problem. All I had to get from the store was the fresh stuff - milk and bread and butter and eggs, coffee creamer, some MacIntosh apples and something green and leafy to keep my tummy happy. Things were close around here for a while, and still are, though not quite so bad as they were.

But the damage was done. Things are nearly back to normal, but what I would have saved in the bumper fund April is gone, and this month is the big renewal premium for my car insurance. Because I lost all that I did, I will not be making my Wisconsin trip this year. See, when my April SSD check hit the bank, it went to pay those bank charges. I don't have this month's statement yet, but from the interim balances I have gotten, things are still not right.It's taken its toll on my anxiety prone tummy and my state of mind - which had been trying its best to normalize the past few years. I keep telling myself it's only money, after all - but geez - one's entire existence is all tied up in it.

Who in the world would want to be me? And why open so many accounts with the same DSL provider? I still don't know who was behind the whole mess - and I doubt I ever will. The bank is looking into it for me, and promised to get to the bottom of it - but I am not sure of that at all.


One more adventure in the life of ...


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