Centegy Check Services / Victim of National ID theft!
On Wednesday, 11 July, I received a letter from Certegy Check Services out of Tampa, FL (NYSE: FIS - deep pockets here...) which sells information to local businesses and the gaming industry (I've never even bought so much as a LOTTO card or played $Bingo$ in my life!) informing me that I was part of a national ID Theft on the part of their company which happened in Florida. They suggested that I "watch my account for suspicious activity" but with advice from my bank, I closed my account instead. Thursday, 12 July, I canceled all credit cards, debit card, ATM card, destroyed all unused checks, borrowed my parent's credit card to purchase new checks (my credit cards obviously canceled) for >$50.00 (very same style as old destroyed account), contacted companies that debit my account such as the health club membership, various utilities, amazon.com, etc., to inform them that I closed out the account and need to start a new account, order new credit, debit, and ATM cards, etc. I think you can see the very time-consuming and mild-costs incurred.
The letter from Certegy Check Services has a check list of things I should do like contacting on of the big three credit reporting agencies and notifying them of the ID Theft. This I did. The letter also suggested that I place a "free credit freeze" on my existing accounts whereby someone can not open a line of credit in my name and hold me libel for the amount. This is where I found a glitch. In the State of Tennessee consumers can NOT get a 'credit freeze' -- free or otherwise. This means that with my personal information out there, someone could open an account in my name, order goods or services, get cell phone contract, rent an apartment, etc., and the burden of proof resting on me to clear my name for the amounts and other data incurred.
The second issue that bothers me is that a Certegy, a company that I had no idea possessed my data, had so few safe-guards to protect millions of customers. I am a school teacher w/ a Tennessee school system and I go through a fingerprint & background check to teach. I also sign an agreement that I will not use illegal drugs or abuse legal stub stances. I have supervisors, fellow teachers, and security cameras which help to safeguard these children. I would ask: "What kind of safeguards do companies like this have to guard against this kind of intrusion?" and "Do these employees go through background checks?" It is not as if the topic of 'ID Theft' dropped out of the sky yesterday. NBC's Dateline shows financial companies all the time how easy data can be stolen without proper safeguards in place. Why is this message falling on deaf ears in this day and time?
I have been affected by this ID Theft. I have noticed that I am receiving a substantial upswing of unsolicited marketing calls and mail despite my name on the U.S. Federal and Tennessee DONOTCALL registry. I would say the calls/mail really started in April and continued in May. I even received one yesterday from a company in Phoenix, AZ. I've been a paying customer through BellSouth for an unlisted phone number in telephone books & 411 calls for 24 years so any company not authorized by me to have my phone number and name is in itself unsettling. This privacy that I've paid for for so long is now compromised.
The third issue is that a victim of consumer credit fraud is only allowed one free credit report per year - the same as those who have not had an issue w/ fraud. The problem is that you may not know that credit was opened in your name until a year later. All security experts say that the quicker you are able to notify the company that fraud has occurred, the better it is for protecting the consumer & businesses. An individual can expect around $120.00 per year for a monthly security check or $360.00 from all of the big three credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Trans Union, & Experian), but why should and individual be out around $$$ for theft by a company who 'gleaned' for financial profit an individuals personal data (with out consent of knowledge)? When flying overseas, my personal data (SSI) is only held for 24 hours and then destroyed by the Federal Aviation Administration (a third-party to my flying transaction) and sister international government organizations (signs highlighting these rights abound at international airports). Why is it that a company that I do not know can harvest & retain very sensitive data and not be required to destroy it like the Federal Aviation Administration?
I was granted degrees majoring in both accounting & business mgt so I am well aware of the importance of following the US federal recommended safeguards (possess only one credit card, never give out your birth-date or SS#, etc.), yet this despite my meticiously following these safeguards, ID theft happened to me.
I am interested in pursuing a class action lawsuit to wake this industry up to consumer protection since the US government and state regulators are failing to do anything but slap these financial institutions on the wrists.