The Wisconsin Better Business Bureau (BBB) is a non-profit organization that has worked for more than 70 years to create a marketplace where buyers and sellers can trust each other. It accomplishes this through consumer and business education, setting ethical standards for businesses, complaint resolution and exposing unethical business practices.
We knew as soon as we read it that this was not a typical complaint to the BBB. The complainant, an elderly woman from Ohio, was filing a complaint against a collection agency located in Wisconsin. Since we process all complaints to the BBB against Wisconsin companies (regardless of where the consumer lives), it came to us.
She was complaining that the collection agency was calling her to collect on a debt she didn’t owe. Actually, that type of consumer complaint is fairly common against collection agencies. However, it was pretty clear that she was receiving lots of calls, from many different collection agencies, about numerous debts she didn’t owe. Why? She was the victim of identity theft.
She was scared and frustrated. “Please have the company stop calling or sending letters,” she wrote. “I am an 82-year-old woman, and this is giving me great anxiety.”
A call from a collection agency is just one of the warning signs that you’re a victim of identity theft. Other signs are: You’re unexpectedly denied credit; your credit report (available for free at www.annualcreditreport.com) lists accounts you didn’t open or contains inquiries from businesses you don’t recognize; your credit card or other bills suddenly stop coming (which could be a sign that your mail has been diverted); your credit card or driver’s license is missing; and you receive bills for credit accounts you never opened.
So, what should you do if you’re a victim of identity theft? Start with this advice from the Federal Trade Commission. Thankfully, we were able to help this consumer complete an ID Theft affidavit with the FTC and stop the calls from collection agencies.
Of course, the best way to fight identity theft is to always keep your personal information safe by disposing of it responsibly. That’s why the Wisconsin Better Business Bureau is hosting ShredFest – Secure Your ID Day this Saturday, April 16th from 8:30 am to 11 am at WaterStone Bank in West Allis, 10101 W. Greenfield Avenue.
Shredding is free. However, there is a 3-box limit. For more information about the event, including a list of items that need to be shredded and a records retention schedule, go to www.wisconsin.bbb.org/shredfest.