A Halifax man is warning about the dangers of identity theft after someone else’s lavish spending ruined his credit rating.
Last month, Bob Fredrickson learned someone was using his personal information, including his Social Insurance Number, to steal his money and run up bills in his name.
He first became aware when his bank alerted him that someone drained between $19,000 and $20,000 from his account.
“Most of them were debited to a casino somewhere in Ottawa,” said Fredrickson.
Equifax says it is now investigating why Bob Fredrickson received such poor service when he tried to fix his credit rating.
The agency has placed a fraud alert on his credit file and offered him a credit monitoring product for one year, at no charge.
Equifax says there's a number of ways a stolen identity can damage credit ratings. Loans, credit cards, and cell phone accounts taken out by the identify thieves, but which go unpaid, can hurt the victim's credit rating. Unpaid bills may be sent to collection agencies, which will show up on the victim's credit score.
The credit agency recommends a number of ways to protect your identify:
- Do not give out personal information unless you have initiated the contact.
- Guard your Social Insurance Number.
- Safeguard personal information in your home.
- Protect your mail. Deposit outgoing mail in post office collection boxes or at your local post office. Promptly remove mail from your mailbox after it's delivered.
- Shred all documents you are discarding.
His bank closed his accounts.
Then Fredrickson started getting calls from other banks.
“This guy has gone and tried to open new accounts in Ottawa with my name and identification, so I guess they figured out it wasn’t him or whatever and they didn’t let him do that.”
Fredrickson said he doesn't know how the thief got his information, but whoever it is gets around.
"Yesterday, I thought it was done, but I got a bill from Charm Diamond Centre for $4,000 for a purchase that was made on an account I don't have."
His bank has reimbursed Fredrickson, but nearly a month later he's still trying to get his credit report fixed.
“So you'd figure if this is becoming as common as it seems to be coming, and it seems to be just part of our age, that the approach to it certainly leaves the consumer completely in doubt and your credit rating. This guy can charge all sorts of things and my credit rating can be completely screwed and I can't do anything about it,” he said.
Fredrickson said he tried calling Equifax, the credit monitoring agency, more than 80 times, sometimes waiting on the line for nearly two hours before hanging up.
He's emailed and faxed the agency.
“Two days ago I get a letter from Equifax saying they can't process my claim because they need more information. Please fill this out and call this number which is the same number I've tried to call for the last month."
Finally on Wednesday, he received some relief.
Within hours of the CBC calling Equifax, the firm got in touch with Fredrickson and assured him it would fix his credit report.
The thief is still at large.