Photo: Marc Royce
Q: A representative from my bank called recently to ask whether I had received my new credit card. Since my current one wasn't due to expire for five more years, I asked why they sent a replacement. The agent said there had been a copyright problem, and they reissued all the cards without notification. I never got mine, but apparently someone else did. That person tried to use my card to buy a report from an online data broker that would include my name, my parents' names, and my Social Security number. I asked the bank representative how the charge was processed when I never activated the card, and she said it was declined. Should I have my credit report frozen?
A: At the risk of making you more worried, are you sure that was your bank calling? Scammers are infamous for getting people to cough up personal information by posing as concerned customer service agents on the phone or by sending official-looking e-mails.
I want you to be doubly safe if this ever happens again: When you get a call or an e-mail from a financial institution, politely hang up or walk away from your computer. Then call customer service and explain that you just received an inquiry and want to confirm its legitimacy. The representative can pull up your record to see if anything warrants your attention.
While it sounds like you dodged a bullet this time, you're smart to be concerned. A credit freeze is indeed the ultimate protection. Unfortunately, not all states allow consumers to freeze their reports. In "Protecting Yourself Against Identity Theft" , I explain the rules, along with steps you can take to better safeguard your financial information.
From the September 2007 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine