Blog Archives

Recovery from Identity Theft

My own experience with identity theft is nearly over now, but I’ve learned a few things during this experience.  First, its important to keep a close eye on your bank accounts, watching daily activity and looking for unrecognized charges.  In my case I found that the person using my card had my physical card info including the 3 digit number on the back.  So someone either had physical access to my card, or one of the few only vendors that I deal with that actually asks for the 3 digit code had some kind of security breach that they haven’t alerted me to yet.  So keeping an eye on your accounts is really a key element to protecting yourself and putting a stop to things before it gets out of hand. 

Fortunately we use online banking and have for years now, which is not only convenient but normally allows you to setup e-mail alerts and notifications for various levels of monitoring.  We first found that something was wrong by monitoring our checking account and saw some unrecognized charges.  Someone was buying website memberships and hosting services.  They racked up about $200 worth of charges on my account, but I cought it fast and was able to get all the charges refunded by the charging merchants. 

I was not happy with the way my current bank handled the whole situation.  They made me call the merchants and deal with the process of removing the fradulant charges on my own.  Any other bank when you report fraud they would be all over it, and I probably wouldn’t have had to do a thing.  So we now have a new bank and are in the process of switching everything over. 

I checked my credit report and everything looks fine, so far no one has used my information to get a loan or do anything else bad to my credit. 

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Cleaning up my bills

Today, I was able to consolidate a few bills into a single bill at a better interest rate. This is very exciting because it means we can now pay more towards the total bill and pay it off faster. We also made a few changes and moved things around a little and things are looking on the positive side. We’re planning out how to use our tax refund and have several things we can try to use it for, including a new top for my car!!! So its an exiciting time!

Details

Our old house sold rather quickly, it was listed, sold and closed within 30 days. Our buyer was a little wacky and we had to jump through all kinds of hoops to make him happy. The closing date snuck up on us big time and we had only a few days to make moving arrangements. Liz and I packed up as much as we could and we had some friends that were nice enough to come over and help us. We had some help loading large items onto a moving truck which we were fortunately able to get for free from our real estate agent’s company. It was a 15′ truck and took 2 full loads to get all of our things to the garage of the new house. Liz and I loaded the first truck load along with some help from friends with the large items on Saturday morning. We then took the load to the new garage and unloaded it with just Liz and myself. It took us about 1 hour or so to unload the first trip. Then we took the truck back to our house and started to load more. It was getting late and Liz’s dad had come down to help from Ocala, so we took a dinner break and ended up with Liz’s dad and myself stopping by Dairy Queen on the way back. We got all the rest of the stuff from our old house loaded onto the truck in a few hours. Leaving only some trash to put out for collection and some small items like mirrors and things we could get with the van. It was almost 10pm by this time so we decided to leave it at that for the night and I drove the full truck back to a baseball field parking lot next to some friend’s house whom we were staying with. The next afternoon, Liz went somewhere with the kids and I took the truck to the new house and unloaded it by myself. It only took me a little over an hour and a half to get the extremely packed truck unloaded. What can I say, I’m nothing if not efficient. Ha ha. That evening I took the truck back to the real estate agent’s office and got my precious Miata back. I enjoyed a nice pleasant ride back to where we were staying.

First our home sale was supposed to happen on a Friday and the closing on our new house on a Monday. However, there was some kind of delay last minute and we could not close on either until Wednesday. So Wednesday finally came, I took some vacation days off work for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday but also had Monday off for Columbus day. So I had 6 days to move and get settled in. We met at the title company at 3pm on Wednesday to close on both houses. The buyer of our house could not be there so he came earlier and signed paperwork. Which we were very happy about so we didn’t have to deal with him in person since he gave us such a time dealing through his real estate agent. Not to mention his agent had a horrible accent and was very hard to understand. They got to us in a short amount of time and we signed all the sale papers for our old house. We finished only after about 15 minutes or so, and then decided to move on and finish the signing of the papers on our new house. This way, when the seller got there all he had to do was sign a few papers and we’d be all set.

Bad thing was that the amount we got back at closing was not as much as we had thought due to higher taxes and expenses in closing. So we got back just short of the amount we wanted. We had planned to pay off two big debts but didn’t receive enough to pay off just one of them. We will be getting an escrow refund from our first mortgage which will help and we don’t have a mortgage payment until Dec 1st, so I’m hoping the extra bill I hadn’t counted on will not be too high of a payment. We should be able to pay a little on the second debt which will hopefully make it more managable. We still have some things we need to buy though, like a dishwasher, since it died just after we got the keys. I’d like to get a new refridgerator, but that will have to wait. We did get a new TV (woo hoo), couch set, and some other things, but the budget is going to be interesting now. We are going to have to take Sarah out of private school and send her to a very highly rated public school nearby. We just can’t afford her tuition anymore with the higher living expenses. This has been hard for Liz and I’m not happy about it either, but unless I get a major career boost (and I already do good) or Liz gets a good job, we just can’t afford to send our kids to private school. Its bad enough just paying tuition for one, I can’t immaging how we could send all our kids to private school. Sarah will likely start public school in early November.

Activating utilities at the new house was a little strange, we are just outside the city limits of Temple Terrace, but still are on their water/sewer system. Tampa Electric still services us which is good, but water and trash pickup were tricky. The county told me they didn’t service my address, the city said they didn’t service the address, Temple Terrace told us they did. So it was a bit confusing getting it all setup. But on the day we moved in we had power, water/sewer and trash pickup is covered in our property taxes. I missed trash pickup this morning, I guess they come way earlier than I am used to, so I’ll have to remember to put it out the night before the pickup day. I ordered Verizon FIOS for internet access to try it out and see how it works for me. Its cheaper than Road Runner and has faster upload speeds which is more important to me than a few MB faster download speeds. I am downloading any TV shows I want to watch now so we didn’t get cable again and I don’t want to pay for Satellite, which stinks in Florida anyway with all the rain in the summer. I connected my PC via DVI to the new TV – a Hitachi 57″ HDTV. I watched some things on it in HD and its amazing. I just need to get a good surround sound system and I’ll be set. But thats one more thing I can’t afford right now. I might be able to get a PCI video card with a DVI port on it, and just use my e-mail server as my multimedia machine. I’d also need to get a wireless keyboard and mouse, but thats not too expensive. I have yet to decide what I want to do about that yet.

We love our new house, its not brand new and it has some maintenance things that will need to be done, but its been cared for and is in good shape overall. Its in a very quiet neighborhood, peaceful and pleasant. Liz has already been rollerblading a few times and I took the kids in the back yard last night to assemble their swing set and it was so quiet and there was a nice cool breeze blowing with no one else around. I have some installation inadequicies so it took a little longer than I had wanted to get the swing set assembled 🙂 We still have lots of stuff in the new garage so only my Miata can fit in there at night right now. I would like to have both vehicles in the garage by next weekend. Its not that much left to move, but its a matter of time and energy to go through it all. We made good progress in the few days we have been there, the kitchen and living room look great, but the other rooms are a little bare right now.

So I’m back at work today after a long break and am right back into the mix of things again. I think I am becomming a supporter of capitol punnishment for spammers. :-)]]>

Financial grief

A. I recently (within the last 2 or 3 months) switched bank accounts from Bank of America, to Bank Atlantic. BOA is now closed.
B. Several of these items mentioned are setup with Auto payment methods

1. I decided to pay off my truck loan with another line of credit I have in order to get the title and attempt to privately sell my truck. Sounded like a good idea, I got a great rate (better than my auto loan) and it was great. I sent in the payment and viola, the truck is paid off. I should have the title in the mail within 2 weeks. But what, thats not all. Almost a week after the loan was paid off, somehow Capitol One (my auto loan provider) debited another months payment from my new checking account. Apparently their system did not catch the payoff in time to stop the next monthly payment (I guess one week is not enough). So here I am now with a paid off loan, and an extra payment made to the account. So I call Capitol One and ask about the payment history on my account. According to this rep, they received my payoff and the account was closed. No further payments show as having been posted to my account. However, looking at my bank statement there is definately an auto pay debit on my account from Capitol One for the exact amount of my monthly payment. So I call back later and was told that I would need to fax in a bank statement showing the debit with a 5-day running balance on the account. I sent in the fax and am still waiting on a resolution, meanwhile there is an almost $200 chunk of money missing from my account now.

2. At least 3 weeks ago I updated the banking information on my Citibank mastercard, which is what I used to pay off my truck loan using a special balance transfer offer. There was only section for updating payment information on the citicards website. So I assumed my job was done. Last week I received a notice in the mail from Bank of America with a payment rejection notice from Citicards. Apparently I originally signed up for Autopay on the citicards website (something that has since been removed, you now have to call and send a fax to activate this). So now that Auto Pay information has been removed from the website, I had no way of knowing my account was enrolled in autopay, so I updated my banking information in the only place available on the citicards website, which they call Click to Pay. Needless to say, they billed my old (now closed) bank account and the payment was rejected. Now I have to ask you the reader, have you ever read the fine print on any of your cardholder agreements? You know the part where they say the interest rate will go up to some ungodly number if you ever default on a payment or otherwise default on your account. Well, I am living proof that they mean what they say. After the 1st day the payment was rejected, my account was immediately flagged as in default and my interest rates were jacked up to over 32%. This raised my monthly payment which was due to almost $700. I received a phone call from an automated system from citicards saying my account was overdue and I could press option “1” to pay by phone and avoid the normal $14 processing fee. So I did and I made the payment which they pushed me into before they would even talk about resolving my issue (which would have reset my interest rates and brought my payment back to normal). So I made an almost $700 payment and then realized I was charged the $14 processing fee I was told I would not be charged. To citibank’s credit, they did refund the $14 processing fee, after I used their website to request a refund. After talking with Customer service at Citibank they initiated an APR reset, to put my rates back to normal (what they were before this all happened). I have to call back again on Friday to check on this and make sure it was done. Hopefully retroactive to cover the few days my account was in this state. Later I was transferred to an e-services representitive to try to figure out why my account billed from the wrong checking account. I was then told that I was enrolled in autopay and the only way to update banking information was to complete a form from Citibank and mail it in with a blank check. Again, this is something that was removed from the website. So right now, my rates are on their way back to normal, I still need to make sure they are retroactive. My banking info is saved on the website, so I am just going to use click-to-pay from now on (fortunately they have E-mail reminders for this). Once the rates are corrected, I am going to check to see if they can readjust my LARGE payment I had just made to reflect the changes of the correct interest rates and apply the bulk of that inflated payment to my principle balance. I have my doubts if they will be very helpful with this request.

So as it stands now, I am missing nearly $1000 from my checking account unexpectedly. And these major banks are in no rush to try to resolve any of my issues. With a 7-10 day turn around time, I guess thats just big business. Hopefully by tomorrow evening or early next week I can at least expect some kind of resolution to these issues. Although I don’t think they will be resolved to my satisfaction, but rather to the bank’s satisfaction. I wonder if Bill Gates has these kinds of issues? 🙂

UPDATE: 8-7-06 – I called Capitol One and Citicards again this morning. Capitol One agreed to refund the extra payment they took out, so I can expect a check from them soon. (Although soon in bank terms could mean months). Citicards said the interest rate reset went through and should take effect tonight. The change should be retro-active and correct any time the rates were messed up. This will also cause my finance charges to get re-calculated so the huge payment I made will get re-calculated and anything over the normal finance charges will go towards my principle balance! Looks like this is on its way to being fixed.

UPDATE: 8-17-06 – I did finally receive a refund of the extra monthly payment Capito One took out. They put it right back in my account. As far as Citibank goes, I’ll have to wait until the end of the month before I can tell if everything has been fixed with that.]]>