Has Your Identiy Ever Been Stolen?
About 18 months ago, my cell phone stopped working. Why? Because some jerk in a faraway city had tried to get a new cell phone with my social insurance number (I'm Canadian), name and date of birth. I live a thousand miles away and as luck would have it, was already a customer of that mobile phone company but at a "wrong" address. So they redirected every call I made to special fraud prevention number until it got sorted out. I was on vacation and my phone stopped working... it took a while to figure out wtf was going on.
I spent 16 vacation hours on the phone when this happened. Experian. Transunion. Equifax. The RCMP. The cell people. The bank. Visa. Amex. I learned that evidently you can bootstrap a cell phone into a credit card or more. As a consumer/id theft victim, your only recourse is to get one of those red flags put on your credit file.
Having credit alerts with a major bureau means more complicated shenanigans whenever you want to, say, buy a house or car. You will always be rejected, at least at first. That is how a credit alert works. It flags "reject" unless somebody (you) at a certain address and telephone number is directly contacted and agrees to it all.
When I got the freeze, my bank accounts stopped working a month later. I missed a payment on my mortgage, but the banks were not jerks about it when I walked the cash over. Then I bought a new house. The loan was held up for documentation review; I expected it this time. "There's been something strange..." "Let me guess...". Repeat this conversation a dozen or so times. I figure I've spent 40 hours or more on this issue on the phone. It's all on the phone.
The alert is a good thing on balance. Just two weeks ago I caught somebody, again from this faraway city, trying to get a store credit card with my ID. Same town. The department store would not give me any information about the thief's address. They WOULD give it to the cops though.
What's annoying is that in retrospect I think there is little I could do to protect myself, and that I was lucky to have no financial losses, only my time. I assume my id theft has to do with hacking a company database (TJ Maxx/Winners comes to mind) or government office (Canadian tax man). I am medium paranoid about id and own a shredder, and I had not travelled to that city in a decade.