I know exactly how you feel.
Quite a few years back, someone got hold of two books of my checks. I
still don't know how they got them as there was never any sign of forced
entry into my apartment, also several of my good suits disappeared at the
I was in SC visiting my relatives when I tried to withdraw some money
from an ATM. It said there was no money in my account. I couldn't
I called the credit union and asked them what was going on. They
asked me what where all of these two, three, and four hundred dollar
checks that were being drawn on my account. She got copies of the
checks and read the information on them to me. I had no recollection
of writing them. I asked her what the designs were on the checks.
She said they were airplanes, which practically confirmed that they
were indeed mine as I was using a style of checks that had pictures of
antique airplanes (like the Ford Trimotor and other classic now
antique aircraft). They were a special issue that a check company I
was using was offering for a short time.
She compared the signatures on the checks with my signature card on
file. She said that in her humble opinion, the signatures were
clearly not mine. I had to fax an order to block my checking account
altogether to protect myself further. I also called the Montgomery
County police (I was in SC) and made a police report by telephone.
When I got back to Washington, I had to go by the credit union and look
at those checks to determine which ones were legitimate and which ones
weren't. The credit union sent the fraudulent ones back to the payees and
recovered all of my money.
I opened an account at a local bank and had managed to stop direct
deposit on my credit union account before my next payday. They
expedited my checks when I told them about my situation at the credit
The letters from the collection agencies started arriving. I sent
them a form letter I had typed up. They all demanded copies of the
police report, which I didn't have in hand since I'd made the report
by telephone while I was out of town. So, I sent the county police a
letter and a five dollar check they required to send me a copy of the
They were slow about it. In fact, the collection agencies were
getting so nasty with me that finally I told the boss I'd be in late
the next morning and stopped at the county police office and insisted
on getting a copy of that report as those collection people were
hounding me to death. They charged me another five dollars, of
course. But I walked out with the police report in hand.
I made copies of it and sent them to all of those collection agencies.
One by one, I began to get letters from them telling me they had
purged the collection reports from their files, all except one. That
was the notorious Equifax Services. I wrote them another letter, but
they didn't seem to care. They kept sending me letters demanding
payment or legal action would be taken (despite the fact that they
already had the police report in hand).
Fortunately, the county bar association had a service whereby you
could consult with an attorney for forty minutes for seventy-five
dollars. They refered me to a Maryland bar member who happened to
have an office in Washington just a few blocks from where I worked.
He assured me that I wasn't liable and that these people were just
blowing smoke. He suggested I write them another letter and told me
basically what to say.
I was always very good at writing letters demanding change. In fact,
some of the stories I could tell you about my letter writing would
curl your hair considering the results they got. So, I wrote it up
and included the legal phrases he suggested I used. For good measure,
I sent it via certified mail so they wouldn't be able to say they
didn't get it. Most companies are a little intimidated by certified
mail because they believe you are probably getting ready to go legal
when you start doing that, or at least that's been my experience.
My letter was strongly worded and I cautioned them that this would be
the last letter I sent them before I had my attorney contact them on
this matter. I pointed out that I had already filled out and sent
them the fraud form they asked me to fill out and attach the police
report to. I used the 'cease and desist at once' phrase and told them
there was another copy of the police report attached for their
'convenience'. I told them I'd hold them criminally responsible and
civilly liable if they had done anything to damage my credit rating.
They took it very seriously. I got a letter from them telling me that
they had purged all of the fradulent checks from my files and that I
had not been reported to any of the credit bureaus and that I wouldn't
hear from them on the matter again.
I had gotten a few phone calls from some of the merchants who had
cashed those fraudulent checks. Whomever the perpetrator was had a
passport and a DC driver's license with my name on it. The passport
number was not my passport number. And up to that time, my area
driver's license was issued in Maryland. I later had a Virginia
license for a time. But to this day, I never had a DC driver's
Safeway was one of the companies that had taken some of the checks.
They told me that the norm these days was to steal checks and then
make fake ID so they could cash them. So, they weren't terribly
I had filed a claim with my renter's insurance about the missing suits
that disappeared about the time that my checks had apparently been
taken. They denied the claim because there was no sign of forced
entry into my apartment (the stolen checks that were passed at about
the same time those suits disappeared didn't seem to make any
difference). I later trashed them and went with another insurance
company, not only for that but for other problems I'd had with them
(never returning my phone calls, demanding I take time out from my job
to go to DMV to get a copy of my driving recording and bringing it in
in person just to get a quote for auto insurance, which none of the
other insurance companies required you to do).
There is no experience like getting all of those threatening letters
and phone calls from all of those collection agencies. They practically
impune your self-esteem on a daily basis. And though you sent them
the letter advising them that the checks were stolen and that you were
getting a copy of the police report to send them, they just keep
demanding payment and claim that you weren't responding to the letters
they sent you. However, Eleanor Roosevelt said it best.
But I found that since I was using checks with a different account
number that no one was giving me any trouble about cashing my new
checks. I later went back to the credit union and got another account
number altogether. I never got any static about those checks either.
I'm sure my old account number was flagged by all of the check
clearing houses that the merchants use to verify your checks are good.
I would advise anyone that has been the victim of identity theft to
change the affected account numbers immediately and stop using the old
accounts. Then you shouldn't get any static when you cash checks or
use your credit cards again.
Of course, the perpetrator was never caught. All that trouble he
caused me and he skated.
[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: Well, this bird did not get any of my
credit or debit cards, or other ID; just a carton box of the kind that
checks are sent in from the check printing company. And Timothy Garotte
was caught. It was in the Independence Daily Reporter today. I watched
eagerly for my paper to show up this afternoon, and there it was on
page 2, where they put the Police Activity column each day:
"Timothy S. Garotte, 34, of 1628 North 9th Street, Independence,
was arrested Monday afternoon for the alleged theft of checks
from a residence in the 600 block of East Poplar Street in
Independence, according to Police Officer John Edwards."