Identity theft gets personal

Steve Hamm

The bad news came in a harmless looking package. It was a letter from Wells Fargo Home Mortgage informing me that a computer containing my name, address, social security number, and home loan number had gone missing and was presumed to be stolen. The bank apologized for the situation, offered me a free service that will alert me if suspicious activity turns up at credit reporting agencies, and gave me advice on how to protect myself from identity theft.

I had been aware of ID theft, of course. But being aware is one thing and knowing that a thief may be out there right now figuring out how to rip me off is another. It reminded me of how I felt after being shaken up in the Bay Area earthquake of 1989. For a long time after, the earth didn't seem solid under my feet.

I went through applying all of the safety measures that Wells Fargo recommended, but one thing bothered me. In a Google News search, I saw what the theft of the computer had first been reported on May 5. Why did I not get a letter until May 22? A bank representative told me they spaced the notices out so their customer service call center wouldn't be overwhelmed. That's not a good enough reason. It gave the bad guys, potentially, a couple of weeks lead on me.

Now that I'm a wise person when it comes to identity theft, I want share awareness with others. Here are some useful Web pages:

The Federal Trade Commission's Identity Theft Report
Identify Theft Resource Center