One day after I arrived in Winnipeg to spend Christmas with family and friends, my sister said a she had a piece of mail for me. This is not unusual since she lives in the condo where I used to live - 3.5 years ago.
I opened the mail to find a statement saying I owed an electronics store in the city almost $5000.00. I don't live in the city, I don't even live in the province.
I knew as soon as I saw the statement that someone was impersonating me to steal things, I just didn't know the extent. I didn't know what ID they had (if any) and was hoping against hope they didn't have my SIN number.
The next day my husband called me from home to tell me that a cellular company's Fraud Department had called and I needed to call them back. I did (On a Saturday afternoon and they were working) and the lady there informed me that six accounts had been opened in my name. She then rattled off my SIN number, birth date and Driver's Licence number (a 3.5 year old, non-valid licence number). I felt sick!
I have not had anything stolen and have my SIN card in a very safe place (I checked). I have no idea where they got this information but have some theories:
1. They stole files out of the garbage from some place I used to work (they all have your SIN number). The last company I worked for before I moved went bankrupt last year and I wouldn't be surprised if they just turfed everything in a dumpster.
2. The company where I bought my car threw my file out because I am no longer a client (they too have all this information).
3. The union I used to belong to had a computer hard drive stolen in the last two years that contained all this information (I got a letter in the mail alerting me to this about two years ago).
Basically I'll never know how they got this information unless they catch the scumball(s) who did this.
Immediately upon learning about the second occurence of fraud, I ordered a credit report online and saw that from mid-November to the beginning of December there had been eight inquiries into my credit by a number of stores (mostly electronic) in the city.
After doing some online research I learned that I needed to make a police report. So I trooped down to the local office with my mom and met with the most useless, bored, dried up, should be retired by now because I am no help to anyone anymore policeman ever. He was watching t.v. when we walked in and looked pissed because we interrupted whatever he was watching on a Sunday afternoon.
He didn't want to do it, but took my report only including the minimum amount of information possible. I had piles more information for him but he either ignored me when I told him about it or told me he didn't want it. Then he told me not to worry because I wasn't responsible for any of it anyway and they would never catch the person. I have never wanted to sass a policeman before, but it was close that day.
I started went back to my mom's house and started making calls. I found out that in approximately one week this crook and his lackies had racked up about $18,500.00 worth of debt in my name. Mostly high-interest, don't-pay-for-a-year debt I might add.
These people (a man and woman) would walk in to stores and buy three laptops here, a couch/loveseat/entertainment unit (did they have it delivered???) there and sit down with the financing people and fill out credit applications, etc.....I am blown away by some people's nerve. They are not afraid of getting caught and I am baffled by their lack of conscience. In one case they went in to a big electronics store and started opening an account, they realized part way through that they were on surveillance camera and ran out. They then went home and tried to apply to the same store online!!! They just didn't stop.
They are also persistant. I was in one store (with a suspect reputation in the city) in an attempt to get a copy of the credit application the thief filled out (that they still don't have) and had at least two salesmen say to me that they remembered the crook because they thought it was strange he bought three laptops at once and that he had had to come back three (yes three!!) times before they would give him financing. Some idiot finally gave it to him. This same idiot working at this slightly scummy store also has access to all our credit histories. Think about this the next time you are in a big retail store. Who is working behind the counter accessing your personal financial information.
So, I have spent from a week before Christmas until now calling the fraud departments for all these companies, relating my tale, reciting my police report number and signing affidavits.
Now remember when the policeman told me not to worry because I wasn't responsible (did I mention that he was really patronizing when he said it?) for the debt? Well, I'm not except that there is a pile of debt sitting on my credit report gathering interest exponentially. Hmm...so if I just didn't worry about it and didn't take care of this what happens when I try and go get a mortgage in the next couple of years. Mr. Lazy-Ass Policeman needs to get his act together and stop giving ignorant advice.
Moral of this story:
None really since there is really nothing I could have done to prevent this situation. This hasn't made me paranoid, but has made me seriously question how easy it is to get financing at major retail stores and how maybe something should be done to make it a little harder.
Maybe people should have to show an actual SIN card before they are given any kind of financing.
Maybe some kind of photo ID needs to be built in to the credit check company's processes.
Maybe Manitoba needs to rethink it's licensing process, and maybe there should be a number retailers can call to see if a licence number is still valid (the number these criminals used hasn't been valid for 3.5 years).
Two weeks ago, my mom called to tell me that the police has arrested two people for ID theft in Winnipeg. I called the police and someone from Commercial Fraud actually called me back. We spoke for a while (he commented on how sparse my file was and I told him about the slacker cop who took my report) and he told me that if they were the right crooks he would call back.
To date - no call. Oh well, at least they caught some of them.