Whenever I used to see a commercial advertising protection from identity theft, I somewhat smugly assumed that I didn’t have anything to worry about. After all, I have a weird name that no one can pronounce much less spell. Why would anyone want to steal that when there are so many John Smiths and Jane Does out there? Well, smugness and complacency have no place in today’s world, as I have sadly learned. My personal journey with identify theft began a while ago with a letter from our cell phone provider confirming that I had added five lines to our account.
Huh? After questioning everyone in our family, each of who denied involvement in adding lines to anything, I called the cell phone provider. There a very helpful customer service representative confirmed that yes, five lines had been added but that the provider had already figured out those additions were not from me but from some other source and that someone had hacked my account. But there was nothing to worry about, the customer service representative assured me. Everything was taken care of.
Fine, end of story.
Only it wasn’t.
The next month’s bill contained not only the five lines that had been added but numerous astronomical charges directly related to those new lines. I called the cell phone provider again. And once more I was assured that everything was fine, I didn’t owe several thousand dollars and one more time I was told that I had nothing to worry about.
Great. Or so I thought. A few months later there was a message on our answering machine from a detective in Florida who wanted to know what I knew about the identity theft case involving my cell phone number, the one I wasn’t supposed to have to worry about any longer. With much trepidation I called the detective (after doing some internet sleuthing to ensure that he really was a member of a Florida city’s police force—I haven’t spent numerous years watching Lifetime Movies for Women for nothing). After chatting with me for a few moments, the detective asked if I’d be willing to press charges.
“Uhhh, what exactly does that involve?” I asked as any true chickenhearted person would.
“You would have to give an affidavit over the phone telling what happened to you and that would pretty much be it. We’d handle the rest.”
That sounded simple and since I didn’t think the woman who stole my identity—along with several hundreds of others from the same cell phone provider—should be allowed to continue her life of crime and after getting the detective’s assurance that no, I wouldn’t be the only victim pressing charges, I agreed. I gave my affidavit and that was it. Really it. Or so I thought.
Within weeks a subpoena addressed to me was mailed to our house. Now, if you’re the kind of person who gets tears in your eyes when the police are driving behind you even though you know you’ve done absolutely nothing wrong and are even driving five miles under the speed limit, then you’ll have a pretty good idea of how I felt when I read the subpoena. Petrified. The subpoena informed me that I was to call a not toll free telephone number in Florida IMMEDIATELY to find out when I’d be called to testify.
Testify? The closest I’ve ever come to a courtroom was when I got tapped for jury duty a few years ago. Fortunately, one of the pre-jury questions asked was “What was the last television show you watched?” Like an idiot or a genius, I’m not sure which but I’m leaning toward the former, I replied, “Perry Mason” and was quickly escorted from the room amid snickers from the lawyers and a look of sincere pity from the judge. With trembling fingers I called the number on the subpoena and was told by a bored clerk that the trial was at a standstill but if I was required to come down, the state of Florida would pay for my flight and my hotel room.
“And they always put out of state witnesses up in really nice hotels,” the clerk added.
Hmmm. This was sounding a little bit better. Especially after I remembered that my grade school heartthrob, Mr. David Cassidy, happens to reside in Florida. I could not only be a good citizen, I could also be a former-teen-idol-celebrity-stalker for a few days.
Alas, nothing happened and after a while I forgot about my identity being stolen, Florida, and brief daydreams of running into David Cassidy on the beach while picking up sand dollars. Until the next subpoena arrived followed by another one and another one. We’re going on two years now and I’ve gotten almost blasé about being subpoenaed. I do, however, still watch reruns of Perry Mason because you honestly never know when that kind of legal knowledge will come in handy.