Normally I'm quite the perky, happy, "I love everything!" blogger. But tonight I might have to be a bit more serious. (gasp)
You see, after spending 45 minutes on the phone with an IRS agent today and finding out that once again my tax refund is being withheld due to identity theft, I'm a bit irate. Last year was literal hell on my credit and identity, and I'm not happy at all to see that I have to deal with it again this year. Apparently I have so many red flags in my file that I will probably be dealing with this for years and years to come. AWESOME.
This post is not intended to get sympathy or anything of the sort. I'm hoping it will just kind of show you how important it is to take care of your credit. You have to keep an eye on it at all times because you never know who can get their hands on it. I never, ever thought anything would happen to me, but I was wrong (dun dun dun)
December 1, 2007. The day my troubles began. I was at a bar watching the Marquette vs.Madison basketball game at a bar here in Chicago, when my phone rang. It wasn't a number I recognized, so I let it go to voicemail and then walked outside to check it right away. I had an inkling something was wrong and boy, was I right. It was my credit card company letting me know there had been suspicious activity on my card.
I quickly called back and the customer service rep asked me to verify charges—almost $900 at a cell phone store in Montreal. I practically screamed, "What?! That's not mine!" into the phone, in a very panicky, high-pitched voice.
Turns out someone got my credit card number and was using it to their heart's content up in Canada. It was an awful feeling. I had to cancel my credit card, file a police report, report identity theft, etc. It took months to figure out and get everything back on track. What a pain. And just when I finally had the charges cleared and got my new card...
March 2008. One day when my brother, sister and I were home, my Dad mentioned that our family accountant had filed all our tax returns. Except mine. There was a "glitch" when he tried to submit it electronically, so he had to mail it in.
The glitch? Someone had already filed taxes under my social security number.
The accountant swore it wasn't a big deal. He said someone must have mistyped their own social security number, and that it would all get figured out. Right.
April rolled around and my brother and sister got their nice little tax refunds. Me? Not so much. Then it was May...then June...then July. Finally our accountant had an update: I was being investigated. I was given about 10 different numbers to call, affidavits to sign, more police reports to file and various people to check up with. It was a disaster. I sat on the phone for hours almost every day for weeks trying to figure it all out. I went through so many automated systems, I was ready to flip.
Long story short, I didn't get my tax refund until late October, when they finally realized I was the REAL Pam. Turns out, someone was pretending to be me. Sounds cool...or not. But it all worked out and I was happy, until...
November 22, 2009. After watching the holiday lighting on Michigan Avenue, my friends and I went to a nearby bar in the Loop. I was sitting at a high top table, with my purse hanging next to me, against my arm and under my coat. We were enjoying our drinks when all of a sudden the waiting area (right by my seat) got really crowded. My chair got bumped a few times and then I felt a sharp tug on my purse. I immediately knew something was wrong.
Sure enough, I opened my purse and my wallet wasn't there. My debit card, my credit card, my drivers license—everything—was gone. Luckily, the manager of the bar (a very nice Irish man), let me use his computer to cancel everything immediately. And thank God he did, because I later found out that only minutes after I cancelled my cards, there were failed purchases totaling $900 at Target, numerous ATM attempts, charges at gas stations, etc. The list went on and on. I have never felt so violated in my entire life, but I was so lucky I caught it quickly.
And now I'm dealing with the IRS for the second year in a row. They even called my CFO at work to check up on me and confirm my identity. I suppose I'm glad, but really? It's me. I wouldn't ever touch a fly, let alone commit tax fraud. And now all this checking up makes me feel like a criminal...
So please be careful. Trust me, you never, ever want to deal with this. It's completely unnerving and so unnecessarily stressful. Check your credit reports (listen to those lame commercials and visit freecreditreport.com), keep your personal info safe and NEVER say your credit card numbers out loud in public places—especially if you're on a very crowded city bus (I've heard it more than once, which is absolutely ridiculous).
In the immortal words of Charlie Brown, "Good grief."