Our small business became a victim of identity theft this January. We shred, lock up and guard our accounts and identification numbers. But with only our name, address and phone number a thief stole our identity.
The thief, seen on video surveillance and using the name John, apparently has access to software that prints checks. He created checks with our company name, a slightly different address also on Roosevelt road, and our phone number. He used bank routing numbers and bank account numbers that were not ours.
Over 30 checks were accepted by Home Depot, CDW, O'Reilly's and PEP Boys. When the checks all came back marked Unable to Locate Account the collection agencies started calling us. Although it was clear that the checks are counterfeit, some even had the same check number, it is my responsibility to prove they are not our checks and we did not commit these crimes. 28 years of perfect credit history is in jeopardy because of the carelessness of these companies who took all these checks without bothering to call before accepting them.
So, I called the Oak Park Police department. At first they said I could not report identity theft to them because the checks were not passed in Oak Park.
After a visit to the Attorney General's website and reading "What should I do if I am an identity theft victim?" I called Oak Park Police back. The directions on the website start out "Identity theft is a felony under Illinois law. Report the fraud to your local police department as soon as possible and get a copy of the policy report."
Finally, with police report in hand, I began to fill out forms, get them notarized and send them, certified mail, to the folks who are calling me on the phone.
It has taken many hours away from my small business to provide explanation and documentation that these are not our checks and are not our responsibility. I cannot believe how easy it was for "John" to pass several bad checks at each of these companies. These companies use check authorization services, like Telecheck.
Hopefully, now that the check authorizing services are no longer approving checks for Personal Home Safety, this will stop. The bad news is my checks for Personal Home Safety will no longer be approved either.
I now have one of the identity protection products for myself and my husband. But there is no such thing for businesses.
Warning: business checks can be forged and should be taken with caution.