Identity Theft

Help! I Got an Electricity Bill That Doesn’t Belong to Me

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Raise your hand if you LOVE paying bills. … What, no one?

Fair enough. Utilities aren’t the most enjoyable expense, but you need to pay them if you want to keep the lights on and protect your credit. Utility companies don’t usually report to credit bureaus, unless you’re delinquent. Then they’ll repeatedly call you — perhaps you’ll hear from a debt collection agency — until you pay up. Not fun.

Imagine that happened to you for a bill that wasn’t yours: A company won’t leave you alone until you pay money you don’t owe. It’s a huge pain, and it happens.

A woman in Texas discovered someone had stolen her identity when an electric company — not the one she uses — started asking her to pay a past-due account under her name, Mary Rodriguez, according to KTRK-TV. It wasn’t even her address on her bill, and she provided documentation to show she paid her bill at the proper address with a different company.

The company said they had Rodriguez’s Social Security number as proof she opened the account, and no matter what she said, the utility provider wanted her to pay, the news site said.

After a lot of paperwork and frustration on her part, Rodriguez, a senior citizen, won’t have to pay for the fraudulent account.

Identity theft comes in many forms: Data breaches like those at Target and Adobe make big news, but it can also happen on an individual basis, like someone stealing your personal information so they can open accounts in your name.

Fake accounts like that can be tough to find before damage has been done. Monitoring your bank account activity is helpful for things like credit card fraud, but you have to be a bit resourceful to truly keep tabs on your identity. Checking your credit scores periodically, using free tools like Credit.com’s free Credit Report Card, will help you see any sudden changes in your credit standing, which could indicate identity theft, and reviewing your credit reports will help you discover any fraudulent accounts.

There are also credit monitoring services that will alert you if someone uses your Social Security number to open a new account or when someone has requested your credit report. If it wasn’t you, you need to look into the activity as soon as possible.

If you find out you’re a victim of identity theft, you need to file a police report, like Rodriguez did, because you’ll need any documentation you can get when trying to fix the mess. It’s not always easy to prevent someone from stealing your identity, but your preparedness when it happens can make a huge difference for your finances and your sanity.

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