As you know, we’re in the process of trying to buy a house. I say trying because the market is tough in our area right now. Everything is being snatched up by investors left and right. It’s maddening.
(For example, we went to an open house on Saturday for a house that I was already in love with courtesy of the 91 photos on Zillow. It had only been on the market for 24 hours. As we strolled through noting, “this will be the baby’s room” and “the dog door can go here,” there were already two investors chatting up the realtor about their offer. I wasn’t totally heartbroken because in the end we decided that the living space was just way too tiny, but this experience is par for the course.)
That’s not the point of this post, though. I’m only mentioning it because if you have ever purchased a house before, you know how intimately familiar you become with your own finances and credit report as you move through the process.
That said, on Friday morning Catch called me to tell me that she got a call from a woman who was trying to reach me. She was claiming to be a process server, and left Catch with instructions for me to contact some law firm ASAP. After some discussion, the two of us decided that it sounded kind of fishy, and we decided to wait it out and do nothing. Surely if someone was actually trying to serve me with legal documents and they were able to track down my wife, they would be able to find me.
Then around 2 in the afternoon, I missed a call from my uncle. He left me a voice mail message informing me that this same woman had contacted him and given him the same story she gave Catch. He left me with the same contact information for this supposed law firm. I started to panic a bit. They called my uncle? I don’t even call my uncle. What the hell is going on?
I didn’t have much time to think about it because ten minutes later, our HR director at work called me to inform me that she had received a verification of employment for me from—you guessed it—the supposed law firm. It included all of my personal information, and requested everything from my social security number and income to my supervisor’s name.
THAT’S when I started to panic.
In the meantime, Catch and I had both been googling the phone number to see what we could find. We found a number of reports of people claiming that this is a scam and that they were coming after them about old credit card debt that did not actually exist and threatening them, but there was nothing very concrete.
Still, these people are calling everyone I know—including my employer. And they know a hell of a lot about me.
So I called.
After a few moments, I was transferred to a reasonable-sounding gentleman who informed me that they have been trying to reach me regarding a Chase credit card account that I opened in 2003 that was in good standing until I stopped paying in 2006. I was told that the amount due was around $2700, and that I could pay it right that second, or I could settle the matter in court, where the sum would be closer to $6000. I argued with him on the phone for over 20 minutes asking for proof of this supposed debt in writing, etc. He said it was too late and that if I didn’t want to pay that day, I could take my chances in court. He was willing to email me a document detailing my debt, but I didn’t want to give him my email address. In the end, I finally relented and gave him my email address because it was clearly the only way I was going to get anything in writing from these people. They claimed they had mailed me a letter 45 days prior and that my non-response was what was leading to their actions.
My blood pressure was through the roof. I was about 90% positive that I have never had an account with Chase. And wouldn’t it be on my credit report if I had? Because I can tell you there is no Chase account on my credit report. However, my credit around that time in my life was not fantastic. I had split up with an ex, and was over my head trying to support myself and pay bills that we had accumulated in my name while we were together. I was a mess. (Even so, when I think about it now, I know that I didn’t have any credit cards when I met Catch in 2005.)
At 3:15 pm on Friday afternoon, they emailed me their supporting documentation, which was really nothing more than what I had been told over the phone. I was told that I had until 4 pm to pay them or my credit report would be affected and I would have to settle the matter in court.
Let me make something clear: I am a pretty smart lady. NOTHING about this was sitting right with me, but they got me so worked up and scared that I was not thinking like myself. I was their prey, and I felt totally vulnerable. All I could see was my past credit mistakes catching up to me at this transitional point in my life where it could hurt me, Catch AND our baby, and I was terrified.
Pregnantly (new word—think I might trademark it), I called Catch in absolute hysterics. We’re talking loud, messy, ugly crying from behind my office’s closed door. Catch tried her best to calm me down and reminded me that this is all highly suspicious and told me that she was going to contact her cousin (an attorney) and take care of this from here out.
Fortunately, Catch and her cousin were able to work together to figure out the glaring holes in this scam. For one thing, the statute of limitations on this supposed debt would have been up a couple of years ago. For another thing, she looked into the supposed law firm and determined that they are not an actual law firm.
In the end, I replied to their email that I was having my legal counsel review the matter, and I have not heard another peep from these assholes.
I am telling you all of this because clearly, I am not the only person who has been taken advantage of like this. I don’t know how these people got all of the personal information they had on me, but I came very close to handing them $2700 just so they would leave me alone. Honestly, I am still pretty unsettled about the situation, and I’m going to sign up for a credit monitoring service today.