Q: I’ve been receiving dunning calls from a collection agency telling me I owe money on a credit card I’ve never opened. What should I do? — Anxious Al
A: Dear Mr. Anxious: Run, don’t walk, to your phone and call at least one of the three credit reporting agencies — TransUnion, Equifax, or Experian — to see if you’re a victim of identity theft. This type of collection calls is usually a dead giveaway that something is amiss and it’s imperative you follow up. Other giveaways that indicate you’re a victim include:
• Denial of credit for a new credit card, mortgage, or car loan, even though you’re sure you qualify
• Notice of approval or denial for accounts you’ve not requested
• Late or missing bank statements
• Charges on statements for purchases you didn’t make, or the envelope appears to be tampered with
• A new credit card you’ve requested doesn’t arrive on time or at all
• Long distance calls on your bill that you or family members didn’t make
• A creditor given your name, address, Social Security number and/or other personal info without your permission
• Missing papers/documents after a burglary
This list isn’t a complete one, though it’s enough to get worrywarts going. If any suspicious act occurs, act quickly by contacting your local law enforcement and all creditors. Moreover, as I’ve mentioned in the past, I’m a strong believer in ID protection plans that will do the legwork and shoulder much of the costs for you if someone steals your ID.
Next week I’ll discuss commonsense tips on how to avoid identity theft in the first place.
Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears on Saturdays in the Business section of the paper. An expanded version is at www.timesfreepress.com under Local Business.