Although Bette’s identity was stolen in 2003, she did not find out about the theft until she received a bill from a collection agency in April 2006. The bill was for an account at a cable company in a city where Bette had never lived. Bette and her husband went to the cable company’s offices and proved they did not live at the address listed on the account. The cable company promptly cancelled the account.

Soon, Bette learned that the thief had used her name and Social Security number to open a fraudulent account with Verizon. The thief had also managed to change her name on her caller I.D. from Bette’s name to her own. Fortunately, the change helped the local police track down the thief. She worked in a medical office where Bette was a patient. She had stolen Bette’s Social Security number from an office database.

Bette placed fraud alerts and a freeze on her consumer credit reports. A security freeze locks access to the credit score and reports. Without this information, a business will not issue new credit to a thief. Bette has been pleased with the freeze and fraud alerts. There have been no new fraudulent charges on her credit accounts.

Bette has spent many hours working to get the fraudulent information removed from her consumer credit reports. The theft substantially lowered her credit score. She applied for new cards and was denied credit. Bette is happy to report that now all of the fraudulent information has been removed from her credit report, and her credit score has risen to where it was before the identity theft occurred.

Bette believes that Social Security Numbers should not be used as identification numbers at medical offices and elsewhere. She also thinks that utilities should be listed on consumer credit reports. Then, she might have found out about the theft sooner.

“I cringe every time I have to write down my Social Security number,” Ricci told Consumers Union, “I can’t help worrying it will happen again.”