I am not immune to this. I was minding my own business in the big-box store, buying groceries while my husband, who was back at work after a horribly long illness and recovery of months, did his thing at one of his client locations, as he was still not cleared to drive the car. My cell phone rang, and there was exceptionally clear cell coverage that day in that particular store!
"I need to speak with the Mister! It's urgent!"
"Well, this is Mrs. the Mister. May I help you?"
"Yeah." Not "yes" but "yeah." "You owe $1,368.72 to the Dumb Dork Loan Company for a payday loan he received on December 22, 20##. You will pay today!"
Now, at that time, we had many debt collectors calling not only for our Lulubelle, but for unresolved charges from the hospitalization and treatment, where we still argued with the insurance company as to whom would pay what and how much. But I assure you, as faithful followers of Dave Ramsey, we would never even THINK of getting a payday loan!
I told the man on the phone that much. He then proceeded to rip me a new one, accuse me of getting the loan in the Mister's name and the fraud that entailed, told me the Mister would be in jail tonight, and ended his tirade with, "And I'm sending deputies now to arrest him at work right now!"
If I didn't know what I know about the Fair Debt Collections Act, and about civil versus criminal law, even though I am not an attorney, I would probably would have been frightened out of my mind. Instead, I started laughing.
"You think it's funny I'm going to arrest your husband?" the man demanded belligerently.
"I think it's funny," I retorted, "That, given the nature of his work, you think you know enough about him at this point in time to know his exact location to arrest him!" I knew the law, and I knew this guy was full of it. He couldn't arrest the Mister on a civil charge, and the Mister would've had to have a GPS chip implanted on himself for this doofus to find him, giving a lecture in a hall full of people.
"Well, I am, right now," the man replied, without as much venom.
"Well, you better have the deputies bring a wheelchair, because he can't walk right now. You'll be doing this to a man who's just gotten over a major illness, and is giving a lecture in a hall full of people, all witnesses to false arrest. Oh- And I suppose you should call our attorney, so he can gather together bail and take your name, so he can file charges against you and your company."
"You have an attorney?" he asked, as if surprised that people have attorneys.
"Why yes. I'll give you his name and number, and then you quit bothering me. As it happens, we have an adult daughter, as well as an ex-son-in-law, who seem to delight in not paying their bills, as well as either opening accounts in our names, or selling our information to others, one of the two." I gave him the information, and rung off with, "Don't you ever call me again!"
Yet the man did call again. Three times. I now had his number, the idiot. The first time, he called me to tell me that my attorney had said it was OK for us to pay the debt. The second time, he called to scream at me because my attorney called him, explained the law to him, and let him know point-blank that he wasn't getting doodly but a lawsuit if the harassment continued. The third time, he just left a string of obscenities on my voicemail. I then called my carrier and got a new phone number immediately.
So, you see, you are not alone in this. This happens to people all over the world, every day.
Much has been written on ID theft. I'll supply you with links at the end of this post to assist you.
But, the best advice I can give you now is to get Zander Insurance Identity Protection before your identity is stolen. After your identity is stolen, it's very hard to get the protection this affords.
My second piece of advice is, as always, if it gets too complicated, or you're ushered into court, hire the best attorney you can afford. Interview at least three attorneys, and go with the person you feel will do the best job. Do NOT use your custody or adoption attorney for this, even if he or she doesn't specialize! Get somebody who knows about ID theft, finance, contract law as it pertains to credit and banks, and possible bankruptcy as a last resort. Do not be suckered into a bankruptcy immediately, by the way. Think before you act.
Creditors cannot arrest you for civil actions, which is what debt collection is. The alternate of this is simply that stealing your identity and using it to commit fraud is indeed a crime, and is punishable.
Visa's rules for ID theft.
MasterCard's rules for ID theft.
Discover Card's rules for ID theft.
American Express' rules for ID theft.
Article on family and friends ID theft.
How ID theft works.
More on family ID theft.
Freezing credit reports.
Dave Ramsey on ID theft:
- of children's identification.
- Dad's a thief!
- Mom's a thief!
- warning signs.
- dealing with debt collectors.
- cleaning up ID theft.
- Lulubelle and Junior behavior.
- dealing with relatives who are ID thieves.
- lying credit card company in the face of ID theft.
- collection agencies asking for your personal information when you question them.
Each individual jurisdiction has different laws for identity theft, check forgery and the like. If you find you are a victim of identity theft, or somebody commits an act such as forging your signature, go to your local police or sheriff department immediately and file a crime report. Get a copy of the report as soon as possible, and make a bunch of copies. When you are bothered by the calls, send the company or agency a copy of the police report, with a cover letter, return receipt requested.