Life is not easy. Sometimes, we are not conscious how much we are lucky when we`ve been living “uneventful” life. Every day office work with casual private time is not much inspiring. Only people who had real problems in their lives are capable to appreciate this. According to one amazing story of my friend, that I`ve recently discovered, sometimes searching for a job on the Internet, could be very tough experience. It is one of those examples when we usually say – that is happening to someone else. John became victim of the ID theft as an online jobseeker. His “dream job” turned up to be scam. What happened to him, was like in the movie. He got fired from his job and at the same time, fake company (he didn`t know at the time) has offered to him online sales job. Unfortunately, he wasn`t careful enough to check all the details about this company. There were some suspicious signs, but John couldn`t make a difference and revealed some security information to his “virtual employer”. I`ve stated some alerts for jobseekers who are getting to – good – to – be – true offers from potential employer – to – be – id – thieves.
Like a cold shower came information about his credit card. They have used his personal details and have spent over 10.000 $ for online purchase. After he found out, his actions were precisely the same like in a description which is offered on the web site for job searching.
Aftermath of this terrible incident, John has felt not only in financial matter. His mistake of trusting someone left him very unsecure and somehow reserved. I was really intrigued by his story, so I asked him to tell me again in details. Well, at first I was shocked, but then I`ve started to think that all of us could become victims of these “cyber criminals”. We all have some details on the net. We are using our credit or debit cards online. Something could happen just having random search.
I was very curious about whole story and I couldn’t wait for it. Yesterday, he stopped by to have a chat with me and to explain about all details. Telling his story about mistakes he had made, was little confusing. So, we discussed about his delusion and how he could trust someone that he has never seen before. At that moment he was afraid of losing a job. The same day his boss told him that from the next month his work contract would be canceled, he received e-mail from this company. They have used the real company which is in online business. Their name and business was cover and they have been using this particular mask for several times. Because of wide area of their criminal deeds, police couldn`t catch them easily. They didn`t ask for Social Security Number or anything suspicious from the start. There were some regular questions and details from resume. One of their methods was to ask for some personal questions. Mostly, questions which have been used for banking or any online transactions. He asked that person – Jane, why he had to reveal this information. She said, that, they have had to open his online account, as for their employee. Well, it was a little suspicious, but he didn`t have a chance to think a lot. He was losing a job and opportunity was there. Only what he had to do is to send them his papers and wait.
For the first time in his life, waiting was not so good sign. He never has got phone call from Mrs. Mark. Instead he received phone call from his banker. After this unpleasant conversation he decided to start with checking his offer, application. Looking everywhere to find signs of a fraud. He wasn`t expert in online sales, but they offered him to become their Sales Manager. The first sign. They kindly explained, that after signing the contract he will be ready to start. The next interesting irregularity was an e-mail address of Mrs. Mark. It was the business one, but sent via yahoo.com. He missed that detail. Link of the company site was actually hyperlink. Their address was written with CAPS. Very smooth. The last detail was his notification box on Monster. There weren`t any information about this company.
How they breach his security information for a credit card? Well, he couldn`t remember at the moment, but there were some questions like ihs maiden name. It was the same like his security question in the bank. For his credit card. Immediately he started to check transactions. They`ve spent more than 9000$, because he owed only 850$ last month. Of course, they began with small amounts. Than one rejected transaction via PayPal and several transactions below 1000$. For seven days they have played with his credit card and finally when it was suspicious, bank canceled his credit card and called him. Why not before? He couldn`t realize why is this happening to him. Because, he was looking for a job. He didn`t have any purchase on credit card more than a month. Every detail was very suspicious. Now, the next phase. His debt and Credit Report. What to do?
He started to read instructions from Monster. Yes. He should done that before. Than he was linked on FTC site. Three Credit Report companies Equifax, Experian and Trans Union have to be alerted. All these companies have to give one free CR and one annual report. Well, he needed solution.
It wasn`t easy, but John made it. He has started online search. First on the Monster and then on the site of Federal Trade Commission. Well, he found dozens of tips and instructions. After he analyzed what to do, John has called three respectful CR companies for initial fraud alert. It was the next step, to call three credit reporting companies. Placing initial fraud alert wasn`t too much difficult. One of the first suggestions he has got from very polite consultant when he called Equifax was to order Credit Freeze status. Yes, but for now, he needed his CR. Than he filed reports to Federal Trade Commission and to police. Not very pleasant experience either, but regarding instructions he found on FTC site, everything had to be reported and more details he could provide, it was better for him. Their e mails and phone calls, job offer and all other papers were in one folder. He brought that folder in the police. Officer had professional approach and John felt like there was some hope.
Very important thing was to create an Identity Theft Report. It would help solving situation with CR companies, debt collectors and other issues. How do we make this report? John explained to me that process involves 3 steps. After making report to FTC, you have to print a copy and you`ll get Theft Affidavit. Than you file a report to a police. Attaching this two files you are getting your Identity Theft Report.
In the morning he contacted State Attorney General`s office and asked them about putting Credit Freeze status. Than he called all three CR companies and finished the process. There were also a possibility to place Extended Fraud Alert. At attorney`s office they told him that he could put this alert for getting 2 free credit reports within 12 months. To place this alert he had to submit ITR. From now on, everything should be organized and monitored – phone calls, documents, emails, deadlines. He made follow-up on every move. It has become his lifestyle.
After two weeks he has ordered Credit Reports and has found out there are no new attempts of the fraud. On the other side, there was credit card issue and not easy solution. He consulted his lawyer regarding this thing. His pin code and other security questions were masterfully revealed and there was nothing he could do. The bank canceled his credit card. Gold card turned to dust. He didn`t spend one cent for two months. He was afraid of losing a job. Without a job, with few bucks and bills to pay for the next month(s). All he could hope is that police is going to find thieves. Well, it is difficult to return his money. He gave them information. They could breach security system easily. He has heard there were such cases when people got hacked. Usually, they could find a way to refund their money. In this concrete situation, he had to wait. Checking errors, changing pin codes and making updates were his major activities. According to instructions from FTC site he sent letters to the bank and he tried to dispute charges.
Talking with specialist from the bank`s fraud department and then again collecting all proofs about this case were necessary at that moment. The bank was going to investigate. That`s the law. He started from the beginning and tried to explain every detail to this nice officer. She listened to him and asked him usual questions about conversation with criminals, about other suspicious details. It was something what he never noticed before. His alerts on the cell phone (each time when his credit card was used) were turned off. Well, they thought on everything. From the beginning it was obvious, he was dealing with sophisticated cyber criminals. When this procedure in the bank`s fraud department was finished, he had to wait for 30 days. John returned to his everyday life and waited. No calls, no news, nothing. Actually, he expected letter from the bank about removing his fraudulent information. Why they didn`t send him this letter? This wasn`t good sign. He had to be more persistent. What he needed was a little help from a friend. His sister in law had helped him to block this fraudulent information. Sending a copy of Identity Theft Report, copies of ID documents with Social Security number and of course CR. She prepared all documentation and asked the bank to inform all three nationwide companies for blocking errors in CR. This didn`t mean that his debts are vanished, but at the end, his Credit Report was protected and bank couldn`t sell debts to another company. That`s what he thought, at that moment.
For more than 60 days he didn`t have money for regular living. Family helped him, but without regular job, he didn`t have much chance to survive. The only income was from some temporary job. It was the first phone call from some strange, husky voice. Debt collector. Bank sold his debt to another company, although he asked for blocking. Male voice explained to him that his debt was sold to his company, just day before he has reported to Credit Report companies. Under these circumstances, he didn`t know what to do. Fortunately, he had all his files updated and well-organized. After consulting with his lawyer, he has sent letter to debt collector. Maybe, his agony was at the end. Maybe, it was, just the start. Lawyer didn`t have good news for him. Even though, he took all actions accurately and in time, the bank sold debt to debt collecting company. Why? Simple, the bank sold debt, because he has lost regular income. From that moment all his efforts were directed to prolong this debt collecting.
During past two months all actions were taken according to instructions. Nothing was missed, records and follow-ups, but unfortunately he couldn`t avoid this kind of mess. More than one year, he tried to solve this problem. With debt collector he achieved an agreement and finally got message that thieves were catched. Police found smaller group, assuming that they are part of much larger id theft ring. Some of the “mistakes” in their introducing letter, were leading trail for a police. His life was getting back to normal and he had an offer for a new job.
His really though journey is history now. History could help all of us to learn something and not to make mistakes like John did. Not to follow his steps. Just be careful where are we going.