ID Theft and My Neighbor’s Mail

September 21, 2007

As I write this post, I have my neighbor’s Discover Card bill sitting on my kitchen counter. The mailman put it into my mailbox by mistake. Lucky for my neighbor that I’m not a thief because I’d have her credit card number for a month and she’d never know it.

I opened it by accident because I was just ripping into all my mail to sort it and didn’t look at the name. I always just look at the charges. When I saw a lot of stores that I’d never shopped at, I thought someone had gotten my number and was using it. I think I said a few choice words right about then.

As soon as my heartbeat slowed, I realized it had my neighbor’s name on it. There was a long list of charges. I could have easily slipped in a few of my own and if she doesn’t look closely every month, she might never notice them.

Technically, using someone else’s existing credit card number isn’t identity theft – it’s credit card fraud. That’s not as serious or difficult to fix as an actual identity theft. But it still takes you some time and effort to fix.

You’ll need to call the bank that issued your card immediately and tell them which charges aren’t yours. It’s possible that they’ll hold you responsible for the first $50 in fraudulent charges. Have them issue  you a new card number immediately. Then if you have any bills that you automatically pay with the card, like internet service, you have to contact them and give your new card number. It’s all a pain and takes time that we’d rather spend doing something else a bit more fun. Plus, a little bit of your feeling of security has been stolen from you.

This is actually the second time I’ve had a ‘run-in’ with my neighbor’s credit. The first time was about a year ago. It was garbage day. I always bring in my can and my neighbor’s. When I went out that day, there was an envelope laying in the street that had missed being dumped into the garbage truck. It was one of those pre-approved credit offers. It wasn’t even opened, just thrown out. What were the chances of it being the one piece of garbage that missed? Apparently the chances were high, because there it was all by itself – in the open – unguarded.

No matter how careful you think you are, your personal information can easily be found by identity thieves through no fault of your own. Shred all pre-approved credit offers. Carefully look at your credit card statement every month as soon as you get it. And hope your mailman doesn’t make too many mistakes….


One Response to “ID Theft and My Neighbor’s Mail”

  1. Tom Mahoney on September 21st, 2007 5:56 pm

    Thank you for making the distinction between ID theft and Credit Card Fraud!

    Tom Mahoney, Developer
    Preventing E-Commerce Chargebacks

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