Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Close encounters with identity theft

I planned to spend part of Sunday evening writing about our recent trip to Veliky Novgorod. Instead, it was entirely derailed by a phone call.

Woman: "Hello? Can I speak with Mr. or Mrs. Poczak? I'm calling from XXX Airlines and wanted to let Zoltan Poczak know his flight tonight is delayed..."
Me: "Zoltan is my 2 year old son, he is definitely not on a flight tonight. Can you tell me what kind of credit card was used?"
Woman [says the type, then the last 4 digits, no match for any of ours. We start freaking out anyway. She asks if she can call back on this phone number? Sure]

I start Googling what to do if your child's identity is stolen, and it turns out I have to send to any of the 3 main credit bureaus (1) a copy of his birth certificate; (2) a copy of his social security card; and (3) a copy of my drivers' license.  Um, if my kids' identity has been stolen, how safe am I going to feel sending through the mail the exact items that would enable anyone to more effectively steal his identity?? Let's not even go into the fact that for me, the absolutely fastest FEDEX-type mail i can use still takes close to a month to get to the USA and the option of certified mail is not available to us (once more, the glamor of a foreign service life).

The same woman calls back later and apologizes that it was a misunderstanding. She said some number was similar - it sounded like she was saying the phone numbers on record were similar so I was incredulous: "You're saying there is a another Zoltan Poczak with a similar phone number?"

So now I am thinking she's part of the scam, somehow, because that is just not possible. We freak out some more, try to find any possible way to do something regarding Z's credit life (on a Sunday) and it finally occurs to me to call the airline and see what I can find out.

The only phone number on the entire site is for reservations and even then the automated system made me demand 3 times to speak to a human before it relented. I sorely regret I never caught the name of the woman who answered the call, because she was pretty awesome. I apologized that I wasn't making a reservation but it was the only phone number, explained the story, and explained I wasn't even sure anymore where the fraud lay - did someone from XXX Airline even call us - but that something sketchy was definitely up. She was able to check on that flight and ... it turns out there is a Zoltan with a similar last name who was indeed booked on that flight. He had a traveling companion, same last name, first name none of ours.

What were the odds?

We'll still pursue things with the credit bureaus because it's still sketchy and how did Zoltan's Frequent Flier number get involved (the only way they could have pulled up our phone number), but now it's less of a panic to do it later this summer when we are actually in the USA and where Fedex or registered/certified mail are all options and all take mere days to reach their destinations.

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