Monday, February 27, 2012

Bob the Criminal Strikes Again

Do you remember those Citibank identity theft commercials from years ago? I used to think they were hilarious (though my family thought I was insane). I still think they're sort of funny, but then things have changed in the last five years.

A couple of weeks ago we received a notice that we needed to submit additional paperwork for our children’s FAFSAs (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). They wanted a data transfer from the IRS. Weird. But we tried, and the IRS notified us that our current address is not associated with my husband’s social security number—strange given that we’ve live here for five years. Cal and I swallowed and hoped it was a typo. We had an inkling where this might be going...

Five years ago Cal had his identity stolen. We didn’t know until we got a letter from the bank stating that they had frozen all our accounts. (Imagine mortgage, utility, & credit card payments bouncing.) I thought it was a mistake. It wasn’t. An illegal alien had bought Cal’s social security number. (According to the Social Security Administration criminals look through old employment records, copy the SSNs of former employees, and sell them). After buying the number, this particular alien set up a checking account with Cal’s SSN and wrote bad checks. And Cal was being held responsible. We tried to file a police report. No good. We aren’t allowed to know the criminal’s name. He has a right to privacy. (Yes, they told us this with a straight face.) Though his name was Jose Cruz (I have an interesting ability—I can read upside down and backwards, just as easily as forwards). And even though I read his address too, we couldn’t file charges because it was across state lines.

So the other day when we had the IRS glitch, I really, really hoped for a clerical error. Cal called the IRS. They wouldn’t talk over the phone. So he went to the IRS to chat—after waiting in line for three hours. It turns out that Cal’s number was stolen again. This time, however, someone was trying to get a tax refund with Cal’s number.

The IRS couldn’t discuss the faux tax return with us because Cal had to prove that he was indeed Calvin Keller who has had the SSN for 50 years as opposed to Bob the Criminal who’s had it for 6 months. Cal had to photocopy his driver’s license and passport and file an affidavit. In 30 days, when the IRS has (hopefully) processed the paperwork, then they’ll discuss the problem with us. And they’ll assign Cal a super-duper secret IRS pin number. Of course, the fact that someone in Michigan knew we’d get a tax return points to an insider job, but no one seems too concerned about that. So I’m not sure how helpful the super secret personal identification number will be...

In the meantime, our tax paperwork is frozen—and the kids’ financial aid paperwork is frozen. (A clock is ticking in the background for that. It’s our understanding that FAFSA issues must be resolved by the end of April.)

So now we have to notify our bank, all three credit report agencies, and the Federal Trade Commission. Doesn’t that sound like fun? It wouldn’t be so bad if I had any kind of assurance that the government or police were doing something to prevent this crime. But all we’ve gotten are shrugs. And as the IRS lady said, “It can happen to anyone.” And, obviously, it can happen more than once.

What about you all? Do any of you have identity theft horror stories?

Nota Bene:

Several people have recommended identity protection services. Unfortunately, these services, which we have used in the past, would not have caught either incidence of SSN abuse because though banks require you to submit an SSN, they are not obligated to verify it. And, of course, federal databases like the IRS are not available to these services. And it’s especially difficult to catch these criminals because while they are using Cal’s SSN, they aren’t using his name.

Identity theft is becoming a huge issue. The FTC has announced that they are now receiving 50,000 notices per week of identity theft. And stealing SSNs to get tax refunds is the new “hot” identity crime. These criminals file early in attempt to beat you to the tax refund. We filed in late January, and Bob the Criminal beat us, which is why the IRS documents had us living in Michigan.

Here's one more commercial.


  1. Oh, that is miserable. My grandmother had her SSN stolen a few years ago, and she said it was the worst thing ever. I hope you get it all straightened out soon.

  2. That is really scary, and so unfortunate for your kids.

    FAFSA is not forgiving for missing deadlines.

    I have identity theft protection, and I'm confident that it catches all uses of my SSN and not just those associated with my name.

    Do look into making sure your wireless router is encrypted-that's at least an easy fix.

  3. I'm so sorry. That sounds AWFUL. I hope you get it all worked out. It's so unfair, and so wrong.

  4. If you miss out with FAFSA, make sure you do an appeal. We did a ROTH rollover which affected our DD FAFSA as showing us with a large income. We explained this on the appeal and did get a much better financial,aid package. Providence Chr. College financial aid dept was very helpful in guiding us through this.

  5. That sucks so much! I'm so sorry you and your family have to go through something like this again! Hope it gets sorted soon and in time for the FAFSA deadlines!

  6. OH. MY. GOSH.
    That makes me so mad that this is going on and that you have to suffer.

  7. How horrifying. I'm so sorry your nightmare isn't over yet, and it's infuriating the government isn't doing more to prevent this kind of fraud.

  8. So sorry. The only time anything happened to us was when our phone bill showed high charges to what turned out to be a porn site in the Caribbean. The phone co. traced the calls back to one phone booth in the Escondido area..which just happened to be near the main office of Wayne's new employment. They put surveillance on the phone booth and found out the office worker who Wayne had to show his SSN & ID info. to in order to work was giving the numbers to a boyfriend, who was part of some type of ring, who used the info. Somehow the SSNs were needed for the foreign porn site, so the phone co., FBI and everyone else got involved and shut it down and we got our charges reversed. We were fortunate that the phone co. wasn't willing to just sit back.

  9. My mother-in-law had her identity stolen several years ago. An illegal in IL stole her identity and the IRS tried to tell my mother-in-law that she underpaid her taxes to the tune of about $80,000. She didn't even make close to that amount of money.

  10. Hi Marika!
    I'm know I'm probably SUPER late in saying this, but CONGRATS on all your success! Being an award winning author, that's SO amazing! Hopefully there's success coming for me and my book in the future ....
    But anyway, I'm a new follower (of both your blogs)!

    J.B. :)

  11. Oh no!!!! You are actually the first person I know who has had identity theft - and TWICE too????

    I'm always tempted to think we wouldn't be good targets because my husband filed bankruptcy a few years back, and our credit still a mess from it. But i never thought of our tax refund, yikes!!! And oh, the headache of trying to work with IRS and file and wait and file and wait... I'm so sorry!