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Time To Freeze?
There's another report every time you look of some new way thieves are hacking into your personal information, or of some employee who left it on a laptop on a bench somewhere along with thousands of other people's credit details. Here's an excerpt from a New York Times story on identity theft by Tom Zeller, Jr.:

It was at his sister's wedding in Portland, Ore., in the summer of 2003 that Mr. Fairchild first received a hint that something was wrong. His American Express card was declined at a tuxedo rental shop, and when he called the card company, a customer service agent told him why: he was delinquent, she said, on the corporate cards issued to his business, Ebony Passion Escort Service, in Brooklyn.

"I remember her telling me I was the 'sole proprietor,' " Mr. Fairchild recalled in an interview at the rented ranch-style house outside Oklahoma City where he and his wife now live with their two children, Cole, 4, and 9-month-old Mikayla. "I had this woman on the phone telling me that I was not only a deadbeat, but a pimp, too."

..."For the first four months, there's no doubt in my mind that I dedicated 40 hours a week to this," Mr. Fairchild said, reflecting the blunt reality that victims must painstakingly prove - often to disbelieving creditors - that debts are not their own.

Meanwhile, because his credit rating had been severely damaged, the interest rates on some of Mr. Fairchild's legitimate cards began climbing, while the credit limits he had been extended on his cards suddenly began to drop - even though his payments were on time.

"It seemed so unbelievably unfair," Mrs. Fairchild said, recalling one charge on the Amex account belonging to Ebony Passion Escort Service - $750 at Manolo Blahnik shoes. A pair of dress shoes she had bought for her son at about the same time, for the wedding in Portland, had cost $12 at Payless, and given the family's budget at the time, she had considered returning them.

"I think it just infuriated me that someone else was living this life, under this name, and having those kinds of insane luxury items, while we could barely afford shoes for our kid," she said.

After two years, hundreds of phone calls and reams of paperwork, the couple have managed to clear most of the debts from Mr. Fairchild's name - although new ones still crop up. Two weeks ago, SBC Communications called, asking Mr. Fairchild why he had not paid his bill for two phone numbers in Wisconsin.

Untangling themselves from the building mortgage - for which Mr. Fairchild was at one point sued by Wells Fargo Bank, one of many institutions that had bought and sold the debt - required the help of a lawyer. And Mr. Fairchild said that repeated attempts to follow up on his case with the Santa Monica police have been unsuccessful.

Consider this blog item a reminder about freezing your credit, which you can do if you live in California and some other states, so nobody can apply for anything in your name. Here's the info for Californians. Here are some other states that allow it.

Posted by aalkon at October 2, 2005 7:16 AM

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