The Day My Identity Was Stolen

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This is a true story. It happened to me. Don’t let yourself be a victim. If you are, there are things you can do to protect yourself.

Act One

Late Monday afternoon, I received a call from a number purporting to be Amazon. When I answered, a very polite, professional person asked me if I had approved a $180 purchase. I had not, although, coincidentally, I was wondering about a similar-sized charge to my credit card.

He asked me if I knew anyone in Tennessee. I did not and told him so. He went on to say they would refuse the order. Then he asked me if I wanted to be connected to my bank so I could make sure it hadn’t gone through. I thought, why not?

Act Two

Again, on the other end of the line, a very professional-sounding person answered and even gave me a call-back number, which was, in fact, my bank number. I assumed all was well because, you know, the numbers.

I was then told that someone was using several of my credit cards to obtain merchandise and cash. I told him I didn’t see these on my accounts, and he told me they were under investigation, but he was certain my identity was stolen. He said he would send me to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Act Three

On the other end of the line was a man identifying as Mathew Jones with the FTC. I looked up the name and number; both belonged to the FTC. Mr. Jones told me an investigation into money laundering had been initiated, and a person with my name was among the suspects.

I was shocked and fearful. Identity theft is a big deal, and millions of people are victimized every year. Mr. Jones was kind, warm, and understanding. He told me how I could help them by withdrawing some funds from my account and depositing them into an account operated by the government.

Act Four

I did as I was told.

It hit me too late. I had been scammed, so I ended the conversation. I reported what happened to the FBI and various other federal agencies. I learned that scammers, mostly Eastern Europeans, were making millions from the unwitting. I was one of them.

I used to scoff at people who fell for these scams until I became one of them. Although the money, around $10K, will be missed, the embarrassment that comes with being duped was and still is overwhelming.

This was a sophisticated operation involving professional actors, spoofed numbers and methods of obtaining your personal information. Nonetheless, it took about two hours from the first call to the last.

The FBI told me how to protect myself from being compromised moving forward:

Change all passwords and enact two-party verification where possible.

This means selecting the option of having an additional method, such as a text message, email, etc., sent to you during log-in. These will provide you with a code you can enter.

Freeze all credit reporting bureaus, i.e., Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. You can always open them when you need credit. Set a temporary fraud alert. When you do it for one bureau, all will do the same.

If you receive a monthly retirement from your job, contact the administrator and have them enact security procedures. It might be something as simple as a code word in addition to your password.

If the scammers have a copy of your driver’s license, you might want to apply for a new one. Not a duplicate, but an entirely new license. Most DMVs will require a police report to do that, so get one. I did, even though the primary jurisdiction was federal.

You can do other things, just Google identity theft.

Mostly, every lending institution, except Citizen’s Bank, was very cooperative and went out of their way to help me. Citizens thought I was the scammer and refused to allow me to withdraw vulnerable balances. Some people are just stupid, and I include myself in that. After all, I handed a guy I didn’t know and couldn’t see over ten thousand dollars.

Don’t let it happen to you. Never give your money or personal information to anyone you don’t know following a phone call. Never.

About the Author: Professor Mike is a writer and editor. He also teaches at his local university. He doesn’t like people who hurt other people.

About Post Author

Professor Mike

Professor Mike is a left-leaning, dog loving, political junkie. He has written dozens of articles for Substack, Medium, Simily, and Tribel. Professor Mike has been published at Smerconish.com, among others. He is a strong proponent of the environment, and a passionate protector of animals. In addition he is a fierce anti-Trumper. Take a moment and share his work.
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Glenn Geist
1 month ago

several times a week I get email notices regarding some purchase or order, asking me to look at the invoice attached. Some look convincing, others not so much. I delete them all, but some really do look convincing. It’s a jungle out there.

1 month ago

[…] Mike explains the sophisticated way he was scammed and what he learned about keeping your ID from being stolen. […]

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