This was an eye-opening experience and I highly encourage you to read and take action for your own personal protection.
Purpose of this article
I have written this article in great detail. It is a little long as I wanted to give a clear recount of what happened when I found I was a victim of identity theft, so when I read it many years later, it will provide a detailed reminder of the lessons learned.
This article details my personal experience of being a victim of identity (ID) theft. I document in detail what had happened, actions taken to resolve it and preventative measures I have put in place to prevent future ID theft!
Recently I have been working with my banker to make changes to my mortgage. As part of the loan application the Financial Institution would naturally run a Credit Report as part of their processes to see if all is order. I personally have always managed my finances prudently since I had my first job and I consider myself very money wise. All credit cards I even had would be paid off on time, hence I was confident I would have a clean credit history. Boy was I wrong! In this situation there were 3 Financial Institutions (FI) involved, I'll refer to them as FI1, FI2 and FI3. As the loan application commenced my banker from FI1 contacted me and said "according to the latest Credit Report you have a credit card defaulted with FI2 for an approximate amount of $21,000". For a moment I was left speechless and utterly confused. My brain was working overtime to compute this bizarre piece of information. I tried hard to recall if I had ever had a credit card with FI2 which I may I forgotten to pay off as doubt had momentarily entered my mind. My banker then provided me with the full account number as well as the most recently reported date of early March 2020. After thinking about it further, I was confident that there has got to be a mistake and potentially FI2 had mismatched my profile. My banker advised that FI1 will require evidence from FI2 that it was a false match and my credit file needed to be cleared. Fortunately for my homeschooling kids, I had to immediately stop "teaching" for the day and turn my focus on this important matter.
First action taken (Visit a local FI2 branch)
With my face mask on and hand-sanitised I visited my local FI2 branch and managed speak to a customer service (CS) staff member. I explained the situation and that I do not recall having a defaulted credit card with FI2 to the CS, I produced my Drivers Licence and FI2 debit card as requested to verify my identity. To my surprise, the CS said she recognised me. I found it amusing as firstly I was wearing a face mask and secondly I have not stepped into that FI2 branch for over 5 years (at the very least). I certainly do not remember her. I provided the full account number in question and she that it's odd that she was "unable to locate any information on her system". I explained to her that I require a letter from FI2 to confirm that the account in question was not mine and FI2 would be resolving the matter (to that effect).
She made a phone call to someone who informed her that I as the customer would need to contact the Credit Collections team but first she needed to contact the Fraud department. She proceeded to call the Fraud department and was put on hold for a least 10 minutes. I was keen to have the matter resolved at the branch (if possible) so whilst she was waiting to speak to someone from the Fraud department, I decided to call the Credit Collections (CC) department myself. We had shared a moment where both our phones were placed on hold. Interestingly her comment to me was that she would not be able to provide me with a letter today as the matter would need to be investigated (i.e. any evidence will be provided by the team that completes the investigation) but she also advised me that "we close at 2:30pm today". I looked at the time and it was 2:08pm. The CS eventually got hold of someone and about the same time I too started a conversation with the CC department. I briefly explained the situation and provided him with the account number in question, I was firm that there was an urgency to resolving this matter. Pleasingly his phone manner was very sympathetic and reassuring. He said that he "completely understands the frustration this is causing me". He requested that I head over to a branch to provide 100 points of ID. I confirmed to him that I was physically at a branch as we spoke. He then said that he needed put me on hold for a few minutes to consult someone.
Whilst I was on hold again, I heard the CS talking to the Fraud department explaining the situation. When the chap from the CC department spoke to me again, he said that he was trying to contact someone from the Fraud department. I informed him that the CS was talking to someone from the Fraud department already. He said that he could also speak to the Fraud department for me if I was happy to wait (which I did) and was placed on hold again. By this time the CS had finished the call with the Fraud team. The CS said to me that the Fraud team was unable to locate the account information too and needed to dig further, they would likely contact her later in the day if they find anything. The CS said she would call or email me the following business day if she hears anything. By this time (about 2:40pm) I left the branch and I thanked her for help and apologised for holding her back from her home time.
I was on hold for about 5-8 minutes when the chap from the CC team finally returned and said that he would try to get someone from the Fraud department to contact me.
Interview with the Fraud Department
About 10 minutes (2:56pm) later I received a call from FI2's Fraud Department. I'll call the representative, Molly. Molly informed me that the call was being recorded and asked if I was ok with that, to which I confirmed it was fine. Molly asked me to briefly explain to her what happened and when did I find out of the suspicious activity. I explained the situation to her and said that I only found out about this outstanding credit card default about 1.5 hours ago. She said that she was preparing an "interview" and that I will be required to provide genuine information to all questions asked. I won't go into the exact questions asked but essentially the questions were around confirming my most update personal information, contact details and some FI2 banking history. A key question asked was did "I ever live in suburb X?", to which I confirmed no.
About 5 minutes into the interview surprisingly and thankfully, Molly said "I think I know what's happened". She said that another profile was set up that had my matching name and DOB but a different physical address and phone number. She said that the genuine profile is clearly mine and the fake profile is a result of ID Theft or the term she used was "ID TAKE-OVER". I was gobsmacked. I have always been careful with my personal information, physical wallet and cards. I only recalled losing my Woolworths Everyday Rewards card, but that card only contains very limited information. Following the interview, Molly confirmed that she would have this matter resolved including informing the Credit Reporting agency that the outstanding credit card to be removed from my records. As you can imagine, I gave a huge sigh of relief. I requested for an email or letter for confirmation purposes and Molly advised that they generally don't issue such confirmation as once they send the information to the Credit Reporting agency, FI1 should be able to re-run the credit report and it will be updated. Molly assured me it would take up to 48 hours to be reflected on the the Credit Reporting system. Before the phone call had ended, Molly did provide me with some tips on what I should do (which is provided below) and I thanked her for the eye-opening conversation.
A brief second interview with the Fraud Department
Literally about 2 minutes after I got off the phone with Molly, I received a call from (let's call him) James from the FI2 Fraud department. Again he confirmed that the call was being recorded. He said that he was asked to call me from the chap from the CC team. I had to laugh! I said that I had just gotten off the phone from a colleague of his, Molly in the Fraud department about the matter. I asked James about if I could get a letter confirming the matter was resolved. He said that Molly was still working on the investigation as so it has not been uploaded on their system. James did say that the update to the Credit Reporting agency could take anywhere between 4-6 weeks and that they would be able to send me an email confirming that the matter is being resolved. I pointed out that he should have a chat to Molly as that there were some differences in information provided to me. He said he will contact her. I did say that I was very impressed how the different departments at FI2 worked to deal with and resolve the matter is efficiently. The phone call ended with me thanking James for the call.
I received the email confirmation within the hour. I forwarded a copy of the email to my banker from FI1. She was astounded at how quickly this matter was turned around as she expected it to take a few days at the very least. So, FI1 should be happy to continue with the loan application process.
Important Tips provided by Molly
Molly suggested that I request a Credit Report from Equifax which is free under certain circumstances. She said as I am a victim of ID take over, I need to ensure that my information has not been used with other banks or FIs as there may be other credit cards that may have been set up without me knowing. She suggested I request a credit report and go through it in detail to ensure I know all credit cards and loans listed. Any suspicious line items should be addressed. Sure enough that was what I did. I created a login with Equifax and requested a Credit Report. You are required to provide information like Drivers Licence, passport and Medicare numbers for ID verification. The Credit Report was produced immediately and upon reviewing my Credit Report, lo and behold another suspicious credit card was identified with FI3.
Getting an Equifax Credit Report
You can request a free copy of your Equifax Credit Report if:
You haven't received one in the last 3 months; or
You have been declined credit in the last 90 days; or
You have an item corrected on your credit report.
For me, the credit report provided was 15 pages long. I was able to see information about the outstanding Credit Card with FI2 and a suspicious consumer credit enquiry for a credit card with FI3. But the MOST INTERESTING piece of information of all is the current address they have for me is the address with suburb X. At the time of writing, I have yet to determine what the best course of action would be regarding to resolving the current address.
A conversation with FI3
On the Equifax Credit Report, there was a recorded enquiry for mid June 2019 for a credit card with a limit of $21,000. There was no reference number. So, I gave FI3 a call and spoke a representative, I'll name him Mark and explained the situation to him (possibly for the 5th time). Mark said he would do some checks. We confirmed and agreed that I was a genuine customer sum 15 years or so ago. I asked if he could check if there was an enquiry made around mid-June 2019. Upon checking further, he confirmed he found something, BINGO!. He said that there was a credit card application made but was never finalised because the necessary documentation was never supplied. He then put in touch with his manager to discuss the next steps. When talking to the manager, I advised that in order to have the case removed from my records (as it was fraudulent) I needed to get a police report and statutory declaration confirming it was not me who made the request and email it to them to review and resolve.
A visit to the local police station
I called the local police station to ask if they were able to assist with the police report, the male constable suggested that I try the Police Assistance Line first and provided me with the number, he said if they aren't able to assist then I can should visit at local police station. I decided to just go to the local station in the hope to get a hard copy of the police report and statutory declaration. Later in the evening, I visited the local police station. With my face mask on I spoke to the constable on duty, I explained that I am a victim of ID theft and needed to get a police report. The constable said that they don't do these in the station and directed me to the website http://cyber.gov.au and report it there. The visit to the local police station lasting no more than 3 minutes, but I suppose it was a valid reasonable excuse to get out of the house during lock down.
So when I got home, I submitted my report to the http://cyber.gov.au and emailed a copy of the report generated to FI3. I am assuming that the relevant team from FI3 will contact me to continue the investigation. I will supply whatever is needed to resolve the matter.
Conclusion and lessons learned
I would have never thought that my personal identity would be stolen or taken over. There was no indication of the matter happening if I hadn't had a need to applying for a loan. It was quite stressful and draining experience as I found myself explaining the same the situation numerous times to various people. I suppose it can not be avoided as I needed to ultimately find the right people and department that could assist in the matter.
I have always known the importance of having a clean credit history, but it's when it is being assessed that knowing there aren't any issue is when it matters most.
There are a number of key lessons I learned from this situation 1) Be aware of your credit history - run a credit report at least once a year as part of a regular financial health check. 2) Register your details with http://idcare.org. I did this and am awaiting the next steps to take. 3) I am lucky to be able to address the matter with FI2 and have it resolved as quickly as it did. I would think not everyone would be able to get a successful outcome within an hour or so. 4) Be aware and vigilant of your personal information and what is being shared online. In my line of work, clients often provide me with their sensitive information and I will be reviewing my IT infrastructure to ensure that client data security is further enhanced and implemented. 5) Change passwords on a regular basis (using stronger passwords) and where possible activate 2-factor authentication.
Johnny Ly and JC Ly Pty Ltd t/as Wealth Spirit are Authorised Representatives of Synchron AFS Licence No 243313. The information contained on this website is general in nature and does not take into account your personal situation. You should consider whether the information is appropriate for your needs, and where appropriate, seek professional advice from a financial adviser.