Back in the year 2000 I was an 18 year old freshman in college and living in Albany, NY.
Somewhere 150 miles away in New York City (Bronx to be exact) some guy opens an account with Sprint Long Distance for his home long distance service. He uses the name ‘Adam McFarland Jr.’ and opens the account with my social security number. He runs up $517 in charges and then cancels the account.
In November of 2003 I start getting phone calls from a collection agency looking for an Adam McFarland Jr. At first I just say ‘you have the wrong number’, but after a while I start getting annoyed and ask them why they keep calling. They say they have my number down as the phone number for whomever is on the account. I tell them they’re wrong, and that I’m not a ‘Jr.’ and I’ve never lived in the Bronx. They read off the SSN on the account and it matches mine.
I stop dead in my tracks and tell them I’ve been a victim of identity theft. They don’t believe me (much less common even 5 years ago than it is now). After about 50 more phone call arguments and a call to the police, I provide a packet full of evidence to the collection agency and they drop the case. I contact all of the credit bureaus and put alerts on my credit reports (which last 90 days). Thankfully, it’s kept off of my credit report….
Until November of 2007 when the debt collection agency sold my resolved debt to another agency and that agency decided to get me to pay up by putting it on my credit report, even though they know I have no legal obligation to pay it. Apparently this happens all the time (read this shocking story from Businessweek), and it works because they scare people into paying down debt to save their credit report. Just think about if I was trying to buy a house right now – I’d probably have no choice but to pay the $517 if I wanted to get a mortgage in a timely manner.
So of course, today is the lucky day that I check my credit report and see the very average score of 680. Not bad, but I have near perfect credit and that’s too low. Sure I’ve got some college loans and a car loan, but I’ve never ever missed a payment. My score is usually in the 720 – 750 range. Of course, after digging further I discovered this error and started cursing uncontrollably.
I immediately filed a dispute with Experian, and now I’ve got to sit and wait up to 45 days for a result. The debt says it’s ‘closed’ on my report, but it still is a MAJOR red flag to have a delinquent account on your credit report….especially when I never opened the account in the first place. Experian estimates that my score will go back up to 740+ with the account removed – exactly where it should be. However, I most definitely will not pay the $517 to the collection agency to get this removed from my report – I would rather pay $2k in lawyer fees to get the collection agency in trouble for this shady crap.
I’m also going to suck it up and sign up for LifeLock. The unfortunate fact of the matter is that some scumbag out there has my SSN and could use it against me again. It’s worth the $ for the piece of mind.
This has been one hell of a week for me/us financially, and quite frankly it’s becoming a bit draining. Thankfully the BoA situation worked itself out. Let’s hope that this will be resolved in an equally timely manner.