Someone is Posing as Me. How Scary is That?

I never thought it could happen to me but it has. Someone is using my Social Security Number. I found out on Tuesday, when an AARP Tax Aide volunteer phoned to tell me the joint income tax return filed electronically for Sandra and me had been rejected because another return was already using that number.

What followed was one of the most harrowing days of my life.

When I recovered from the shock, I looked up the IRS on the web and, after rummaging around for a while, found a number to call. Naturally, I had to spar with a machine and submit to endless mind numbing “music” before finally hearing a human voice.

But at last, a nice-sounding lady came on the line and told me yes, indeed, someone had used my Social Security Number on a tax return seeking a refund. But she said “something looked wrong” and the IRS had astutely refused to send any money until it received further information. Nobody had replied to the IRS letter requesting “further information,” she noted.

So, I asked, what do I do now? She told me to go get a pen and a sheet of paper. She would wait.

Once I was appropriately equipped, the nice-sounding lady painstakingly explained the procedure I had to follow.

I had to go back on the IRS web site and print out a complaint affidavit form, she said. I was to fill out and sign the form, attach it to my tax return – with copies of ID documents such as my driver’s license and Social Security card – and mail it in.

There was more.

There were phone numbers I had to call… the Federal Trade Commission, Social Security, and at least one of the major credit reporting companies. Of course she didn’t have to tell me to notify our bank. I could figure that out for myself. But she did, anyway. She also told me to submit a report to the local police department.

It might not sound all that harrowing, but I can tell you contacting all those places was no walk in the park.  There was quite a bit of driving around involved. On the phone, I talked to several machines, and I listened to a lot of “music.”

The longest wait was for someone at Social Security. A taped message kept assuring me how important I was and apologizing for the delay. The machine appreciated my patience and wanted me to know I would be better off trying to get whatever information I needed through their web site. After at least half an hour of hypnotic “music” and taped apologies, I heard the voice of an actual human being. This lady asked me for my date of birth, my address, my phone number, where I was born and my mother’s maiden name before she would even talk to me.

Then she told me I shouldn’t have called Social Security; I should have called the Federal Trade Commission. “But,” I said, “the lady at the IRS told me to call you as well as the FTC.”

“I know,” she responded with a sigh. “They do that. But we aren’t the ones to call.”

So I called the FTC. They took down the requisite information and assured me they would “investigate.” I assured them that, yes, I would testify if they brought charges against anyone.

Meanwhile, Sandra called the bank for me, and they told her I had to go to their local branch and fill out a form.

But the young lady who greeted me at the local branch looked bewildered when I asked her for the form. She consulted a colleague, dialed several phone numbers – smiling all the time despite the repeated dead ends. Eventually, she managed to hit on the right number – and they gave her a number for me to call.

So what can the bank do about it?

Well, they can make it more difficult for us to get information about our account. From now on, Sandra and I will have to go to the local branch in person to check on any transactions.

Take that, you ID thief you!