Wednesday, May 07, 2008
Wow, I never thought I would have to go through identity theft before. So let me catch you up on the latest happenings in the Kremer household. Since moving to LA, we've been busy not unpacking, but remodeling. We started a remodeling project a few weeks ago. We have replaced every window in the house, replacing all existing window mouldings, base boards, and door mouldings. We built a walk-in closet, added french doors in the master bedroom, and enclosed a space in the media room for a formal office with french doors. We are working one floor at a time...the master suite. We're adding a gazillion canned lights, 30+ switches, and wired the bathroom, master bedroom, office, and media room with built in ceiling speakers. We're putting all lights and sound system onto remotes...Ed's ultimate dream. Once the floor is complete and all the moulding is complete we'll move on to the kitchen remodel and then finally paint!
Amidst all this chaos, we hired a live-in nanny. It has been a unique experience having a young live-in. I created a 4-page work agreement with our nanny that pretty much explained everything. And those that know me well know that I can be pretty detailed. The agreement discusses work hours, pay, responsibilities, communication, living arrangements and some basic house rules. For example, Ed was adamant about having no guests in the house without permission and absolutely no overnight guests period. Of course, the customary "no drugs, smoking and even alcohol was allowed on our premises." So I wrote it all out and she accepted and signed. So...as I was gone last month in China for a business trip, Ed tells me that she had her boyfriend over and he sympathized and allowed it. But one thing you don't anticipate is hearing, uh-hum, "noises" coming from the bedroom. Mind you, her bedroom is 10 feet away from our master suite. Awkward to have that conversation, we both let it slide. Then two weeks ago, I smell a strange scent in our hallway and realized it was pot. I couldn't let this slide. It was 12:30am and I knock on her door. It took her a few minutes to answer it. You could hear her movement in the room. She finally answers it and I ask her straight out if she's smoking pot in our house. "No, I smoked it outside."
Sure, there was an apology somewhere in there. So, calmly I tell her that is unacceptable. No drugs of any kind are allowed in or around the house, regardless if she is on duty. She apologized. Ed releases her from her job daily as I commute from Orange County back to LA. So, he decided to have "the conversation" with her alone. He discussed her appropriateness and behavior, and other communication concerns we were having. Ed and I are obviously regretting our selection in nannies at this point. We've both agreed to find a replacement, but wanted to think about the timing with a new baby coming and etc. So in other words, we did not move fast on finding a replacement.
Last night, I missed my train coming home so I didn't get home until 9:30pm. I decided to take a later train to work today. I normally leave the house at 6:45am and Ed gets Isabella ready for Shelley, the nanny, for her 7:30am start. When today, I get up to make my bagel and cream cheese around 7:30 and no sign of Shelley. Isabella's talking in her crib. It's now 7:45am and still no signs of Shelley. I walk down to her room and the door opens up...the room is completely cleared out. Not one thing left behind. She didn't steal anything of ours that we know of. Again, I'm thinking...#$&*#^&*$^$@.
I make arrangements with work to let them know I will be home for a few days to take care of my situation. My nanny walked out on the job without warning. I thought, she probably saw the writing on the wall. I mean, gosh we're cramping her style for not letting her boyfriend and her have loud sex and smoke pot in her bedroom.
I spent the first half of the morning looking for daycare when I get a call from my credit card company. They want to verify a $6000 charge at a local plastic surgeons office in Beverly Hills. Hmm...no...that's not my charge. As I ask them to tell me about other charges on the account, I look up my account online and I don't see these charges. Another charge for $35,000 in gift cards was also made on 5/5. I still don't see any of this on my account online. I ask them about the account. It was just opened on 4/25. What the *$@&$. I, of course, close the account and file a fraud claim. I've had construction workers and a worthless nanny in my house, so I have no idea who the perpetrator is. I do all the necessary things. I contact the three credit agencies to report fraud. This person has everything they need to create a credit card. That means my SSN, birth date, address, phone numbers, mother's info and etc. How, I still have no clue. Of course, all of this has already taken most of the afternoon. Ed came home early to help me out. We also went to the police station to file a report.
After I felt all was resolved as much as I can do, I decide to clean out Shelley's room. She left some food behind. I go to dump it and notice both trash cans are full. I see a ton of American Express gift card receipts and used gift cards. So I call Ed over and we go dumpster diving. I find a ton of my mail, such as pre-approved credit card applications, among all of Shelley's trash. I also find two UPS envelopes with my name on them that I never received. I track them and see when they were delivered. I found one receipt shredded up and another still intact in the envelope. One receipt read 70 quantities of $500 gift cards from American Express. This package was received 5/6. The second package with the ripped up receipt said 21 quantities of $500 gift cards from American Express delivered on 4/30. Hmm...it doesn't add up. The only charges that Amex shared with me were for $35,000 and $6,000. What's this additional $10,000? So I call Amex and ask them to tell me all open accounts I have with them. They report 3 accounts. Two were opened in April. The #(&$^# opened two credit card accounts and racked up $51,000 in charges.
I look at my credit report to see other inquiries companies have made recently and see only one other credit card she opened. She must not have been able to authorize the credit card because it was never authorized or used. The good news is...one, Isabella is okay and unharmed that we can tell; two, I'm not stuck with any fraudulent charges and hopefully it won't affect my credit, three, we were able to track the $35,000 worth of gift card numbers that still haven't been used and stop them so she can't spend anymore money!!! and four, I have all her information to give the police, FBI identity theft division, FTC and etc. Identity theft and grand larceny is a big offense. You can be charged up to 30 years for grand larceny (anything over $200 can qualify as grand larceny). We even found an old address and contacted her estranged mother and informed her of her daughter's recent actions. Appalled and shocked, she gave us her SSN, which matched what we had in our records and all her contact information. I want to prosecute to the fullest extent.
Lesson learned...don't be naive to what can happen when you give someone access to your house, personal computer, and mail. It doesn't take much to steal someone's identity. All they need is a SSN, birth date, current address, and mother's information. Pretty scary. If you ever feel violated, get your free annual credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com and verify the recent inquiries made on your credit report. If anything looks out of the ordinary, call the financial institution right away. Also, report a fraud alert. When you alert one of the big three credit agencies they alert the other two. The fraud alert will let you know of any credit-related activities over the next 90 days.
Here are some great sites that have helped me:
- Federal Trade Commission - Identity Theft
- Credit Agencies: Equifax (800) 525-6285, Experian (888) 397-3742, TransUnion (800) 680-7289.
- United States Department of Justice - Identity Theft
I hope this doesn't happen to any of you because talking to credit card companies and their fraud departments suck.
Sorry for the long blog.