Having your identity stolen can cause stress, upset and inconvenience. Below, three identity theft victims tell their stories, and explain how getting a FREE Experian Credit Report helped them get back onto top of things, clear their names and avoid becoming victims again:
Rachel Wilson’s story shows why you shouldn’t trust anyone with your personal information – not even your own family.
Rachel was sent a credit card in her third year of University, and in order to build up a decent credit history, she decided to use the card a few times and then pay off the balance.
“I wanted to show lenders that I was trustworthy and always repay what I owe, she said, “but I didn’t want to be tempted to use the card too much, so I gave it to my mother and asked her to keep it and all the paperwork safe at home.”
When her degree was over, Rachel decided to apply for a loan to buy a car, but to her astonishment, she was rejected. She then received a letter that explained why.
“It said that I owed £2,000 on the credit card, that the matter had been put in the hands of a debt collection agency and that I had 24 hours to repay them in full, or I’d be taken to court. I was incredibly shocked and called to ask when I had run up the bill and what it was for – but because my mother had all the paperwork and the card, I didn’t get very far. I didn’t even know the account number.”
Rachel asked her mother what had happened, “Mum admitted that she’d used my card,” explains Rachel. “She had huge debts and couldn’t get credit herself. She’d been desperate but she wouldn’t tell me exactly what she’d done. She must have been intercepting all the card statements and demands for payment.”
Rachel was horrified and frightened. She didn’t want to report her mother to the card company or the police, so she signed up for membership with CreditExpert and called the Experian customer helpline.
“They told me that the best thing I could do would be to pay off the debt in full. The debt would still show on my credit report but at least it would show that I’d settled it. I’d saved enough money to pay it off, so I did that immediately.”
Rachel was so upset and shocked that she checked her credit report at least once a week. She is now debt-free and has moved out of her mother’s home.
“I just want to warn everybody not to trust anybody with their identity and their finances – not their partner or their family, not anybody. I’ve learned my lesson the hard way.”
Sandie Rowland explains how a fraudster used her details with her old address to run up huge debts.
When Sandie and her family moved from Stoke-on-Trent to Chester in 2003, they told all their business and personal contacts about the move and the change of address. But in March 2006, a debt collection agency called to say that Sandie owed more than £100 on catalogue goods.
“The agency couldn’t give me full details but from what they said the goods came from a gift catalogue that I had never subscribed to,” explains Sandie. “I confirmed my current and previous addresses and it turned out that whoever had ordered the goods had used our old address.”
The fraudster had ordered the goods during the summer of 2005, when Sandie was out of the country. The debt collection agency told her they needed proof that she had left the previous address before 2005. Then, in August 2006, a letter arrived for Sandie, asking that she call another debt collection company. More bad debts had been run up by someone using Sandie’s old address.
“I was getting worried by then and a friend, who is a bank manager, advised me to check my credit record through Experian, with whom the bank ran all its credit checks.”
As a result, Sandie was able to rebuild her credit and by December, some nine months after the first debt collection company had contacted her, her credit report was error-free and had been marked up to indicate that the debts allegedly run up by her were bogus.
“We now shred absolutely everything with our address on it. I even rip off the relevant pages from catalogues and shred those – and the shredded paper makes great bedding for our hamster,” says Sandie.
Mrs A. was also unlucky enough to be a victim of identity theft by having her mail intercepted by a fraudster at an old address.
When Mrs A and her husband retired and moved house, they sensibly redirected their mail with the Post Office, but after the six month period of redirection ended, the fraud started.
A former next door neighbour alerted Mrs A. that she had taken delivery of a parcel from a mail order company that was addressed to Mrs A, but which she had not ordered. Inside the package were curtains, bedding and an invoice.
Despite contacting the company concerned, Mrs A continued to receive mail order catalogues, urging her to contact Experian to get a credit report.
“They were wonderful,” says Mrs A. “I was so upset, I cried when I told them what had happened and they couldn’t have been kinder. I had to fill in a form and send them a couple of utility bills, to prove who I was. Then Experian sent me my credit report and asked me to check it for anything I didn’t recognise.”
Mrs A. noticed another mail order account that she had not opened and also received demands from debt collection agencies on behalf of the company. In response, Experian cleared all the fraudulent account from her account and it is now protected by a password so that anyone opening an account in her name needs to first supply the password.
The fraudster’s managed to get £1,000 of goods using her details. Mrs A. said of her experience: “You can’t assume that lenders will notice errors and it’s clearly worth checking your credit report regularly to make sure nothing unexpected is going on. If I hadn’t checked, I would not have known so quickly about the other accounts.”
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