What would you do if your identity was stolen? And fixing it wasn’t just a matter of closing your credit card and waiting for a new one to be delivered? Today Jacqueline shares her story and a reminder why no, we shouldn’t leave our purses unattended – even if we’re in a suburban Whole Foods.
Tell us a bit about yourself!
Hi! I’m Jacqueline. I’m a Canadian-native, now living just south of Chicago with my husband, two kids, two cats, two ducks, a dog, and 17 chickens.
After spending 12+ years in the corporate consulting world, I recently took a leap and went into business on my own doing freelance writing after side hustling for more than a year. With all my “free time”, hubby thinks I have time to build this little farm he’s been dreaming about.
Do you have any idea how your identity was stolen?
In September, I was at a local Whole Foods; I was shopping for a birthday cake for my 5-year old daughter. We were almost finished shopping when I looked down and noticed my purse wasn’t in the cart.
I wanted to keep my cool in front of my kid. I alerted the staff right away and started searching the store. After 20 minutes of no purse, I called the police to file a police report. In that 20 minutes, the thief was able to spend a few hundred bucks at some gas stations, a pharmacy, and a Target. Then they had a hot dog lunch.
Five months later, on Valentine’s day, I’m was on the train heading home. My husband calls and asks “Why is there only $100 in the bank?” I thought this was weird, and went to check it out. I’ve been known to make some banking errors in the past and maybe something cleared that I had forgotten about.
At the time, the bank wasn’t able to give us any details, just that someone had withdrawn $3,462. We had to wait until the next business day to get more details. The bank said it could have been an error, but we wouldn’t know for sure until the next day. To be safe, we put a hold on our account so that no money could go out, only in.
How did you discover that someone had stolen it?
My purse, which also had my cell phone, car keys, and house keys were stolen back in September, and we had totally put this incident aside. The police didn’t turn anything up, so we carried on with our lives.
The morning after the withdraw, we were able to download a copy of the withdrawal slip used at the bank. When my husband showed me the image I felt sick. It was in my name, with a copy of my signature exactly as it was shown on my (stolen) driver’s license, my bank account number, and my social security number written on the slip! My social security card was not in my wallet when it was stolen!
What did you do when you realized what had happened?
Once I stopped shaking, I went into action mode. Our first stop was to visit the branch where it happened. We spoke to the manager, showed him the withdrawal slip – which wasn’t even from this branch and he was floored. Writing a social security number on a withdrawal slip is not a normal practice, there were red flags all over this.
When at the bank we closed our accounts. We were also grateful that they accessed the account a day before one of our bonuses was paid out – they could have taken a lot more money
Something like this can take MONTHS to unravel. What did you have to do and who did you have to call to get all of this sorted out?
First was another call to the bank to open a fraud claim.
We locked down our credit even further by alerting all our cards about the fraud. I also called TransUnion – who alerts the other credit reporting unions. They put a hold on all credit inquiries for 90 days, so no one could open a new account anywhere without me getting a phone call.
I also filed a police report with the Chicago Police Department. They said there were currently 40 people or so going around the city doing exactly this. They also weren’t surprised that they somehow got my social security number – they said, “these guys are criminals, they know what they’re doing.”
I filed a report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) who also alerts other government agencies, like the IRS should someone try to file a tax return in my name.
We closed down our accounts with that particular bank and went to a new one. Changed all of our online passwords, and added a security password that we had to give verbally to people at the bank to prove our identity.
In the end, were you able to get reimbursed for everything?
Yes. With the initial purse theft, the thief used my credit cards. As soon as I reported the incident to the credit card companies, they assured me I wouldn’t be responsible, but they’d need to do an investigation.
With the withdraw from our checking account, it took two weeks for it to be reversed and to get our money back. No word on if the thief was caught.
Has this changed the way you spend money online or how careful you are with your purse/wallet/locking doors?
Absolutely. The Whole Foods surveillance video showed that I had one hand on my cart while a man walked up, grabbed my bag and walked right out the door. I always knew to never take my hand off my cart, but an eye was all it takes! Now, I carry a cross-body bag. I also don’t carry as much in my wallet.
No more debit cards, health insurance cards, or business cards. I just carry credit cards, and also keep some cash locked up in a safe a home.
We changed our locks on our doors, and let all our neighbors know.
We also set up additional banking alerts, so every withdrawal or deposit over $100 and we get an email about it.
What did you learn from this that ANY of us could apply to our daily lives?
I’m naturally very trusting (I think it’s the Canadian in me!) but I’ve become more aware of my surroundings and militant about carrying my purse, locking my car doors, even the locking the door when I’m at home.
Have a list, or photo of everything that’s in your purse right now. If it’s stolen tomorrow, you’ll know exactly what was in there and who to call.
This might sound totally woo of me, but I think that whatever was taken from me will be returned tenfold in other ways.
Eeek! Thanks so much for sharing your story, Jacqueline. Have any of you guys experienced anything similar? If you have, what helped you navigate it?