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Identity Theft Questions
Old 06-30-2012, 12:48 PM   #1
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Identity Theft Questions

Apologies for the long story but details are necessary to explain the situation.
About 3 weeks ago, DW received a call from 'Chase Fraud Department' from a number beginning with 408. They left a voicemail informing her that somebody had opened up a Business Credit Card in her name (she doesn't have a business nor does she have a Chase Credit Card, but does bank with Chase) and they had closed the account. They asked her to call back a 1-800 number. She did and was asked for some info. She gave them her SSN, address, name and stopped after she got suspicious of them asking about all this info which they should already have. They told her to call the number on the back of her card if she was more comfortable. She told me about this a minute later while I was at work, I googled the numbers and realized that this is part of phishing/vishing scam looking to collect personal information. She is obviously embarrassed by this. She was under a lot of stress and having a particularly bad day, they caught her at a very vulnerable moment and they sounded legitimate at the time until she caught on.
She called the real Chase on the back of her card immediately and they said they had no record of any credit cards and did not recognize the 1-800 number she had called. The put alerts on her account and 'extra security'.
We put on fraud alerts and froze her credit with all 3 agencies, checked for any fraudulent CC accounts (there weren't any), put alerts on bank accounts and secured them as much as possible, filed an identity theft report with the FTC, put a temporary alert on with the IRS (going to send in paperwork to extend the alert), called Social Security Administration who said there was nothing they could do, called police who said we can't file a report as there was no actual crime committed - just handing over personal information over the phone was not enough proof. We did not contact the DMV or Passport Office.
Last week, we got a letter in the mail from 'Chase Fraud Protection' about the fraudulent business credit card opened in her name complete with account number and numerous transactions adding to over $1000 in and around our city and some other places. The letter says the account is closed and lists steps to be taken (call credit agencies, ftc, etc.) but some of the contact numbers and web addressed look dodgy/fake. The letter asks her to sign a confirmation of forgery statement and send it to them. It seems they have a lot of her information by now and want her signature, perhaps to sign forged checks or get fake IDs.
Here is where it gets extremely creepy. We take the letter to a local Chase branch to get some sort of written conformation from Chase saying that the letter is fake and identity theft, so that we can take this to the police to file a report. We gave the Chase account manager a few hours to look into whats going on and he calls DW back saying that he called through the internal numbers and after getting transferred a bunch of times spoke to someone in the Fraud Dept and their manager (verified they were employees of Chase in the internal phonebook) and they confirmed that the account was in fact opened and then closed and told him to ask DW to call back a 1-800 number. The account manager called her and ask her to call the number. Now, this 1-800 number was the same shady number she had initially called and give her SSN/address/name to! We went back to the branch right away and the account manager was spooked and confused himself. He brought in his manager who seemed to know what she was doing, and said that they were going to hand all this over to the Fraud Department and let us know within a few days. She said that they cannot possibly look into this as this could be something more involved that would involves the feds, secret service, etc. It seems to me these scammers have either hacked into Chase's phone systems and/or their records to plant this account in there. The 1-800 number is 100% scam, I have called them, confronted them and they refuse to share any information about themselves, like their name, chase ID number etc. They would not share that info with the Chase account manager in the branch either.
Needless to say, we are creeped out by this. If you have experienced something similar, would love to hear on any suggestions to get us out this mess. We are ready to take drastic measures to get this resolved and our accounts secured, and if we can - help nail these criminals.
We are looking at moving bank accounts to somewhere that takes security and identity theft extremely seriously and can lock down accounts from large wires, electronic transfers, forged checks. What is the best bank or financial institution in your experience? We are considering brokerage accounts as well like Fidelity, where in theory it should be harder for a thief to leak out money. What can a thief armed with SSN, DOB, full name, address potentially do? We want to cover all bases. Can they find out where one's bank accounts, brokerage accounts, etc. are located?
Open to any suggestions or help.
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Old 06-30-2012, 01:10 PM   #2
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So sorry this is happening.

USAA has better fraud management than any of the large national banks I am familiar with. You can't do more than freeze your credit at the 3 credit agencies, file a police report, close your Chase account, file a report with the FTC, then monitor. Do make sure to mail a certified letter with return receipt to Chase confirming the identity theft.
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Old 06-30-2012, 01:15 PM   #3
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Your situation does sound creepy. I haven't experienced any case of identity theft as deep as what you and your DW went through. I do recall a time when with a friend and she received a call from someone posing as a debt collector asking for bank info to resolve an outstanding debt rather than to pay interest etc. It took a little while to realize that it was a scam. Luckily, we caught on before providing any personal info.

I've had times when Discover fraud alert called me while I was traveling. Some of them even sounded fishy so I called the number on my credit card and they were legit.

The one time I had my Discover card number taken the CC company's fraud alert called me. They cancelled my card and gave me a new one but I never knew what happened as far as if the theft got caught, etc.
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Old 06-30-2012, 01:59 PM   #4
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Retired fraud investigator here.

This is cause for concerned watchfulness, but not alarm.

You have taken all the appropriate steps, and other than what MichaelB has suggested there isn't much else you can do. You might write a letter to Chase outlining what has happened and send that certified mail return receipt requested. Those usually get someone's attention. This simply documents that you did whatever you could to mitigate their losses but is not a requirement.

Yes, their losses. The bottom line is this: Unless a bank or merchant can produce a piece of paper with your signature on it authorizing a given transaction you are not responsible for it.

Obviously, check your credit reports at least annually (I spread them out over the year for the three of them) and before applying for any major loans such as a mortgage, car, tuition, etc.

Identity theft can be a major headache if you're searching for a job, trying to get a mortgage or buy a new car on credit because it can stall those things, but if things are otherwise stable in your life then it's usually more of an irritation.
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Old 06-30-2012, 05:06 PM   #5
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So additional things to do: Send Chase Fraud Dept (the real one!) a letter reporting fraud with certified mail and return receipt, file police report (will have to wait for Chase to get back to us with something in writing), close Chase account (eventually, don't want to do it right now while investigation is pending).

Credit monitoring service we have provides unlimited credit reports (at least from one agency).

We are not in need of any credit, and that is not a concern for us. We are happy to shut down our credit indefinitely. Just worried about current accounts with cash, and fraudulent credit card and bank accounts opened by the criminals after whom we have to clean up.

I hear you about the losses, but I have very little trust in these guys and that they will do the right thing even if we report something missing immediately.

USAA sounds great and I've hard good things about them, but they are unaccessible to folk like me who have no military ties. Would like to hear about other banks and brokerages.
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Old 06-30-2012, 05:48 PM   #6
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USAA sounds great and I've hard good things about them, but they are unaccessible to folk like me who have no military ties. Would like to hear about other banks and brokerages.
USAA Banking is available to anyone. The insurance products are for Veterans only.
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Old 06-30-2012, 07:56 PM   #7
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USAA sounds great and I've hard good things about them, but they are unaccessible to folk like me who have no military ties. Would like to hear about other banks and brokerages.
You're laboring under a very common misconception that USAA acknowledges is made complicated by their membership qualifications. I've answered this question a number of times and I still occasionally get confused myself. But I have USAA people who I can consult for clarification.

The "military" connection only applies to vehicle and property/casualty insurance. That military connection is actually pretty generous if you have anybody in your family tree who used to carry a military ID.

But what you care about is the USAA financial products. Those are open to everyone. You can call USAA now and apply for a credit card, a checking account, CDs, and mutual funds. As Brewer12345 has mentioned, you can even buy life insurance. The more customers they have for those products, the happier they are.

I've actually been in USAA's Security Center. (Which might cause most posters to wonder how "secure" it really is, but I was under escort.) USAA is at least as good as the rest of the industry at taking care of possible fraud. Sometimes they lean a little too far forward, but you won't be liable for fraudulent activity on your account. They're quite accustomed to people using their cards one day on a Mainland military base and the next day in Afghanistan. I usually let them know my travel plans, and they usually don't mess with my card.

As a backup, you could open a Fidelity account and apply for their FIA Card Services American Express 2% rebate card. I think FIA Card Services is actually affiliated ("subsidiary"?) of BofA but I'm not sure. In any case, 2% cash is a pretty good deal and the card can be used at Costco, so we wear it out.
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Old 06-30-2012, 08:20 PM   #8
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Ok - we will try to contact USAA. We might have a family connection anyway. My concern would be that there are no physical branches in our immediate vicinity (NYC). How does USAA fraud security compare to some other we are considering: First republic Bank, TD Bank, Citibank, Chase, HSBC. How about an online bank like ING Direct? Fraud experts/investigators more than welcome to chime in.
For brokerage, similarly how does Fidelity stack up vs. others?
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Old 06-30-2012, 08:52 PM   #9
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Ok - we will try to contact USAA. We might have a family connection anyway. My concern would be that there are no physical branches in our immediate vicinity (NYC).
I've been a USAA member for over 30 years. Up until they invited me to a blogger conference last September, I'd never ever set foot in a USAA bricks & mortar branch for business. I probably never will, unless they open one in Honolulu and offer free coffee...

They've opened service centers in the vicinity of large military bases and veteran's population clusters. Those have mainly been for junior enlisted and retirees who are more comfortable chatting face-to-face about investments rather than over the phone. IIRC they don't even have insurance or banking staff in those centers.

I only use the USAA card as a backup (and for rental cars on travel), but it's got a honkin' huge limit on it that I'll never get from another credit-card company ever again. I've never worked with any of those other financial institutions, but both Chase and Citibank have succeeded in pissing off my 19-year-old daughter in less than a year. She's much happier with a USAA credit card and an Amex Blue. The big deal with Amex Blue was that they reported to the credit agencies monthly, which helped her develop a credit history faster. When she applied to USAA eight months after the Amex Blue, she was approved online in minutes.

Fidelity, Vanguard, Schwab. All have their strengths and each has a few isolated weaknesses, but they're all pretty much the same. I don't know if Vanguard or Schwab offer credit cards but I haven't enjoyed a 2% no-tricks no-fine-print rebate card for a long time.
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Old 06-30-2012, 09:11 PM   #10
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I've been a USAA member for over 30 years. Up until they invited me to a blogger conference last September, I'd never ever set foot in a USAA bricks & mortar branch for business. I probably never will, unless they open one in Honolulu and offer free coffee...
Along those same lines, I've been a USAA member for 42 years, lived in the city where their HQ is located for more that 25 years, and worked in an office less than a mile from the bank for more than 15 years. I doubt I've been the inside the bank more than a couple dozen times and almost all of those were prior to the creation of online banking. I don't think I've set foot in the place since we signed the papers on our HELOC in 2004.

No branch, no problem...
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Old 07-01-2012, 06:40 AM   #11
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We use USAA as our primary bank and have never been in a branch. Their security is better than any other bank I have used. They have lower limits on automatic transfers and get humans involved more often when doing business. My experience with BoA and Citi is poor and Chase pitiful.
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Old 07-01-2012, 10:05 AM   #12
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Sorry to hear about your security problem.

We have a Chase account. No problems and the security seems to work. But who knows, this technology is quickly evolving and the crooks are a bit too savvy.

Our credit union appears to be a little more technologically up on security but that could be an illusion. Security is a joint effort between institutions and customers.

We've got security freezes in place with the 3 credit agencies. Recently I got a Chase Sapphire card and only had to give them the PIN to one credit agency to get the freeze temporarily lifted for a credit check. Done quickly over the phone, no charge too, very easy.
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Old 07-01-2012, 10:46 PM   #13
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Thanks for answers and recommendations. Where would think money is safer from potential identity theft - in brokerage accounts or bank accounts? Where do most of you early retirees keep the bulk of your assets and cash?
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Old 07-02-2012, 09:00 AM   #14
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Thanks for answers and recommendations. Where would think money is safer from potential identity theft - in brokerage accounts or bank accounts? Where do most of you early retirees keep the bulk of your assets and cash?
I'd think which is safer depends on each instituation and their security departments. True, sometimes one can be at the wrong place, at the wrong time. Yet, I think the key to safety mostly rests with customer -- safeguarding cc numbers, and being cautious about those phishing schemes.

In your case, the crooks got the info the old fashioned say, by phone and not by the internet. For me, I've trained my mind to unless I definitely know who is calling, I don't answer the phone and let my answering machine (yes, no voicemail, just answering machine..but digital and not tape) screen the calls.
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Old 07-02-2012, 09:14 AM   #15
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Technically money is safer in a bank because it is protected from bank failure (FDIC) and unauthorized withdrawals (EFTA) while money in a brokerage is only protected by the good will of the custodian. Still, the major brokerages, such as Vanguard, Schwab and (IIRC) Fidelity have made a good faith commitment to accepting liability if unauthorized transactions are reported in a timely fashion and one has taken reasonable steps to ensure computer security (antivirus).

Personally I think it all depends on the good faith of the institution, and in this respect Vanguard and USAA have my vote of confidence.
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Old 07-02-2012, 10:18 AM   #16
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In the case of Vanguard, a crook might get access to your account but I think there are provisions in place to disallow easy access to withdraw. They could withdraw to an outside account you've already set up. Then would have to gain access to that second institution's account. Would take significant time and if you are watching your confirmation statements you'd catch the first withdrawal notice. Sounds a bit far fetched as there are easier targets.
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Old 07-02-2012, 10:43 AM   #17
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In the case of Vanguard, a crook might get access to your account but I think there are provisions in place to disallow easy access to withdraw. They could withdraw to an outside account you've already set up. Then would have to gain access to that second institution's account. Would take significant time and if you are watching your confirmation statements you'd catch the first withdrawal notice. Sounds a bit far fetched as there are easier targets.
Two more security measures, Vanguard sends me an e-mail, with every confirmation. Wells Fargo Bank sends me an e-mail with every deposit, check, or transaction I make. Quicken tells me every morning, what went on the day before.
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Old 07-02-2012, 12:13 PM   #18
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In the case of Vanguard, a crook might get access to your account but I think there are provisions in place to disallow easy access to withdraw. They could withdraw to an outside account you've already set up. Then would have to gain access to that second institution's account. Would take significant time and if you are watching your confirmation statements you'd catch the first withdrawal notice. Sounds a bit far fetched as there are easier targets.
Nah, what crooks are supposed to do is to buy call options in their own accounts on their desired thinly-traded stocks. Then they use your account to buy all the shares they can, jacking up the price and driving up the value of their options. After they've sold their call options then they sell the stock short. Next they go back to your account to sell all those thinly-traded shares at market, which causes the price to crash. Then they close out the shorts in their account and buy call options...

Or, um, so I've heard.
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Old 07-02-2012, 04:54 PM   #19
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Nah, what crooks are supposed to do is to buy call options in their own accounts on their desired thinly-traded stocks. Then they use your account to buy all the shares they can, jacking up the price and driving up the value of their options. After they've sold their call options then they sell the stock short. Next they go back to your account to sell all those thinly-traded shares at market, which causes the price to crash. Then they close out the shorts in their account and buy call options...

Or, um, so I've heard.
Maybe you are kidding but I don't think you can do this in a retirement account. However, maybe you could in a taxable one. Good reasons to set the permissions as tight as is practical for your needs. Perhaps the better institutions look for weird trading activity.

Plus you'd get email'd confirmation notices for sure. You still have to do the DD of checking those confirmations which is something I force myself to do on all email confirmations even when I think I know exactly what I did to trigger them.
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Old 07-02-2012, 08:47 PM   #20
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Maybe you are kidding but I don't think you can do this in a retirement account. However, maybe you could in a taxable one. Good reasons to set the permissions as tight as is practical for your needs. Perhaps the better institutions look for weird trading activity.
Plus you'd get email'd confirmation notices for sure. You still have to do the DD of checking those confirmations which is something I force myself to do on all email confirmations even when I think I know exactly what I did to trigger them.
I'm serious. All the options and shorting is done in the crook's account, and your IRA is just used for the buying & selling shares to manipulate the price. No special permissions required. The brokerage would never bat an eyelash at your account's unusual activity. They wouldn't even know about the crook's options/shorting activity because that's being done in his own account. They don't know that he's hacked your account and he's trading it while he's trading his. If the clerks even noticed your account activity, they'd just snicker "There goes another noob picking day-trader stocks for his IRA..."

Your first indication of trouble is when you receive a hailstorm of e-mails telling you that "you've" just sold all the stocks & bonds in your IRA, followed a few minutes later by more e-mails of purchase confirmations full of ticker symbols you've never heard of.

Just off the top of my head, take a look at Central Pacific Bank (CPF). It's trading at ~$14.50 and it's been climbing last week. Daily volume is about 100,000 shares. Its options have huge spreads and thin volumes. Someone wanting to manipulate the options prices would have to buy & sell less than 50,000 shares, or an IRA of roughly $750K. With a little research you could find a cheap tech or medical stock down around $1/share with some options volume.

Neither you nor the brokerage would have any idea who the crooks were, unless they left an electronic trail when they hacked your account. (Doubtful.) You can't sue because you've agreed to arbitration, and hopefully you and your brokerage would eventually sort it out through that process. Maybe you'd be covered by the SIPC.

Unless you suspended online trading in your account and did it only by phone call, I'm not sure how you'd prevent this nightmare scenario.
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