Recently I was scrolling through my e-mail when I saw a message from a company I hadn’t heard of telling me Your order has shipped!
I’ve done a lot of my Christmas shopping online this year, so I figured it was some sort of third party provider shipping me a gift I had ordered for my parents. Upon further inspection, it turned out a whole lot of electric guitar equipment was coming my way. Though learning guitar has been on my bucket list for roughly 15 years, at this point in my life there would be no reason for me to have purchased this type of stuff.
I looked at the order closely and saw that the e-mail had been sent to my college e-mail address, which is rolling to my Gmail since I haven’t actively used it since I graduated five years ago. Not only that, but the order was shipping to my parents house. Who was sending a whole bunch of guitar equipment to my parents’ house using a credit card that wasn’t mine? It was identity theft, but it was happening in a disjointed and roundabout way.
I immediately called the company that would be sending said guitar equipment my way and explained the situation. The sales rep did a little digging and it turns out that the order appeared to be purchased using a Visa from a company where I’m not a cardholder . It was tied to a phone number from Greece.
With these pieces of the puzzle in mind, I then called the credit card company to see if the person had successfully taken out a card using my social security number. They hadn’t, but the rep advised me to file a fraud alert with the three main credit bureaus: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. This way if any other scoundrel tries to pull funny business, I’ll get an alert and my credit score won’t get dinged.
This was a scary but important reminder. If you don’t have them already, take five minutes and set up fraud alerts for your credit and debit cards. This way if weird activity starts happening, you’ll get notified before too much damage has been done. I’ve also signed up for an account with a company called LifeLock, which alerts you if you’ve been a victim of identity theft. It lets you enter credit cards, your driver’s license, your bank accounts, and even your insurance card. If these numbers start popping up randomly all over the world, you’ll find out about it before hackers wreak too much havoc.
This whole experience was also a good reminder to check my credit score to make sure it hadn’t been damaged. I always forget that you’re entitled to a free report every year, and it’s good to take a look and see where you’re at. That kind of stuff matters when you want to buy a car or a house (which I’m hoping to do in the next few years) so staying on top of it is important. You can get this report for free using sites like CreditKarma.com. I know this isn’t exactly the sexiest topic in the world, but it’s important and it’s easy to forget as you get busy with life.