John and his wife were both victims of identity theft. They first discovered something was wrong when the thief tried to open multiple credit cards with American Express in his wife’s name. They soon learned that their names, Social Security numbers, dates of birth, address, and telephone number had been stolen and used to apply for credit cards at several companies. They are still not sure how their identities were stolen.

Soon after the letter from American Express arrived, John requested a credit report and discovered that multiple inquiries were made at several credit issuers. He called all of the companies and prevented the inquiries from becoming accounts. However, two weeks later, the thief managed to open a credit card account and charge $1300 in merchandise. The company eventually grew suspicious and called John. Later, the thief received a $10,000 line of credit with Wells Fargo. John visited his local Wells Fargo branch, proved his identity, and cancelled the card. The thief also managed to change his address on John’s checking account by visiting a local branch of his bank.

John invested a significant amount of time and energy cleaning up his credit report and working to protect himself against further fraudulent activity. He placed a fraud alert on his credit report, which created additional work because one credit bureau was not notified of the fraud alert. However, he has been satisfied with the alert and believes it has played a large role in preventing further fraudulent activity. John also pays for a credit protection service.

The thief learned about the fraud alert John placed on his credit report. At one point, the thief called an issuer and pretended to be the victim! Fortunately, the fraud alert required the issuer to contact the real John. At one point, an issuer had the thief and John on the phone at the same time. Unsure of what else to do, the issuer hung up on the thief.

John also reported the crime to the local police department in Northern Virginia. Since the crimes took place in Maryland, the local police had no jurisdiction over the case. The Maryland police were not interested investigating either because there were no significant damages. Fortunately, a fraud detective in Northern Virginia took interest in John’s case. While off-duty, he posted “Wanted” posters in the neighborhood near the address the perpetrator had listed. John believes the officer also contributed to stopping the fraudulent activity.

John was relieved to learn that the identity theft did not affect his credit score. He attributes this to the many hours he spent speaking with credit issuers, in person and on the phone.

“The time I invested was like taking another part-time job,” John told Consumers Union, “I don’t know where I found the time.”