Living with credit, Protecting yourself

My new BFF who fraudulently opened an authorized user card on my account

Sally Herigstad

When I worry about identity theft, I’m likely to worry about someone stealing my cards and going on a spending spree with them. Or maybe someone would open a new account, using my name and Social Security number. Recently, however, I became the victim of identity theft with a slightly different twist.

Instead of opening or using credit in my name, an ID thief simply called Bank of America, convinced the representative that she was actually me (according to the bank), and had them add her as an authorized user under her real name. Then, to make sure she got her new card, and no doubt to prevent us from seeing our statement, she changed our account mailing address.

I wouldn’t have believed it would be so easy for someone I’ve never met or heard of to add herself to my account and change our mailing address at the same time.

Fortunately, after creating the card, a representative at Bank of America decided to call my husband Gary to see if we really have a relative or new BFF named Khadeeja Musa, and that we intended to add her to our account. Also, the representative wondered, did we move from Washington state to New Jersey? No, and no.

You would think the follow-up talk with Bank of America would be the end of this story. Not quite.

After the representative changed our address back to Washington, and because our security had been breached, he sent us new Visa cards. One glitch, however. He forgot to remove the impostor from our account. We received not two shiny new credit cards, but three – including one for Khadeeja!

One clue to this case, in our opinion, is that it began two weeks after Gary applied for a new airline card while on a flight. We’ll never know if someone looked over his shoulder as he filled out the paper form, or if the application was not kept secure after he handed it to a flight attendant.

Either way, next time Gary wants to open a credit card account, he won’t be doing it on an airplane.

Since discovering this fraud on our account, we have taken steps to keep Khadeeja or any other thief from accessing our accounts. (If she has my information, who else does?)

I have been checking my credit card account online every few days. So far, nothing out of line has been purchased. Ironically, because there are no fraudulent charges, we are told that law enforcement does not consider this to be a case of theft.

We now have fraud alerts on both our credit reports. It will be much harder the next time this person tries to impersonate me and add a new name to my account.

We are considering closing some accounts to simplify our lives. I can see how having too many accounts makes it so much easier for someone to get away with something. I can only keep a close eye on so much.

I wish I knew what information of mine this Khadeeja has that made it possible for her to talk Bank of America into adding her as a card user. I don’t always find it that easy to log in to a bank, or to convince a phone representative to talk to me. Maybe Khadeeja knows more of my information than I do.

What if Bank of America hadn’t had second thoughts about my new authorized user and called us? What if the card was actually used, and we got lazy and didn’t notice her charges?

I’m keeping Khadeeja’s card, as a reminder of how vulnerable we can be, and that we should always be vigilant about protecting our privacy and credit from thieves.

See related: Fraud alerts: Your credit’s first (and free) layer of security, Why you should file a police report for card fraud

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