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If you’ve never experienced identity theft, you might be wondering what the process is like to resolve it — and how serious it can be. That’s why we sat down with our friend Zac, who recently had his identity stolen in two unexpected ways. Keep reading to hear about his experience and the tools he has now to make sure he’s always in the know.
Kasasa: Tell us about your experience with identity theft.
Zac: I started getting pieces of mail that I didn't ask for. Specifically, there were two pieces of mail — one was an envelope from Chime that had a debit card in it. (And I've never used Chime.) I was like, wow, that's a pretty aggressive marketing tactic. I'm not even sure if that's legal for you to send people debit cards and hope they open up the account. I chalked it up to that.
Then, I got a piece of mail from U.S. Bank and it was for unemployment benefits… and I am fully employed. It was another debit card actually. Whoever got my information applied for unemployment. (This happened during the pandemic when a lot of people were filing for it.) Then it all started to come together. I called the credit agencies and immediately put a freeze on my credit.
K: What pieces of information were compromised?
Z: I don't know what information would be required to submit for unemployment benefits — I assume your Social Security number would probably be one thing. It seemed remarkably easy for them to set both accounts up, though. Fortunately, they didn't get into any of my bank or credit card accounts and use those. So I didn't have any issues where my money was taken or my credit score significantly dropped. They clearly didn’t get that far in the process, but there’s a chance they could have.
K: How long did it take for you to begin resolving the identity theft?
Z: I didn't act on the Chime account right away because I genuinely thought it was a marketing tactic. But when I got the U.S. Bank debit card and instructions for how to use unemployment benefits, I knew this had gotten serious and I acted on that the same day. You just have to submit some paperwork and they’ll close the account for you. And with Chime, I spoke to a representative via email. After notifying the relevant parties and putting a freeze on my credit, overall, it took me a few hours to resolve. (Note: Zac was lucky he caught it early — it can take an average of 600 hours* to resolve identity theft without expert restoration assistance from a full-service identity protection plan.)
K: At the time, did you have any form of identity protection?
Z: There’s a lot of baked-in identity protection services you get for free with credit cards and such, so I had that. I was also part of one of the big credit bureau data breaches, so I had one year free of credit monitoring. But I never got notifications for any of these services. And then I thought, you know what? It’s time for me to get identity protection. (Note: this is the plan Zac has!)
K: Now that you’ve enrolled in identity protection, what else are you doing differently to ensure identity theft never happens to you again?
Z: Since I don't know how it happened in the first place, I'm continuing to try to be vigilant about the things that I know I can control. I have a paper shredder and I try to shred important documents I no longer need. I also use a password manager, because you want to have a different password for every account, and I can’t manage that on my own. I try to be careful about where and how I put my information in online too. If I work at a coffee shop or something like that, I’ll connect to the VPN. All that considered, I would love to know how this person got the information they did.
K: How has identity protection helped you move forward?
Z: I have peace of mind knowing that it's watching that stuff. And since I get the regular emails, I’m always up to date on everything. I don't remember getting emails from the free identity protection service I had or from my credit cards. So the visibility I’m getting from an identity protection plan with Kasasa and Experian® helps me.
K: Do you have any other tips or advice for those wanting to better protect their information after going through this experience?
Z: I think skepticism is a good trait to have when it comes to this. I often get text messages from fraudulent people pretending to be Wells Fargo or Verizon. And I get legit text messages from Verizon! Sometimes I even get wrong numbers trying to start a text conversation. I’ll I normally just say, hey, no offense to you, but I don't know you and don’t want to give you any of my information. I’m just careful about that stuff. Skepticism is important — it’s amazing to me some of the stuff that people fall for.
*2021 SANS Institute — Identity Theft