Repeating my quick disclaimer: All opinions here are my own non-expert opinions. They are informed by personal experience and some reading on the subject. But I haven't discussed this with other people with experience in this, and I haven't studied the subject in depth. Also, I'm Canadian. Different jurisdictions have different laws and customs that could affect how this goes for you. This information will be most applicable to Canadians.
My Story Part 2
The foreign company with a horrible reputationI received another collection notice, this one on behalf of an American company. I found out the company leases credit card point of sale equipment to retailers, and they thought I'd rented equipment and never returned it. Through a web search I also found out they have an absolutely horrible reputation--people accuse them of fraudulently adding pages into contracts after they're signed making it very difficult to end a lease. I just checked their Better Business Bureau rating today--they have an F rating, and in 2016 the attorney general of New York filed a lawsuit against them.
After a few times contacting them and maybe getting a few collection notices, they sent me an affidavit to fill out. It was fairly detailed, and they wanted me to include copies of a few cancelled cheques that I had written. I felt pretty reluctant to send copies of cheques to a company with a reputation for fraud, so I thought I'd leave that part out.
Also, they wanted the affidavit notarized. When I went to get it notarized, I mentioned to the notary that they had requested copies of cheques, and my reluctance to include those. He suggested blacking out my account information. So I downloaded a few cancelled cheques from my bank website, blacked out my account info on the computer, and printed them to send with the affidavit. (Tip: If you're ever blacking out information on a document on your computer and then emailing it, make sure the recipient can't just move the box out of the way and see what was under it. With some file formats and drawing programs this is possible. I was printing these documents, so this wasn't an issue.)
I received one more collection notice from this company, so I called to confirm they received the affidavit. The person I talked to found my affidavit, compared my signature on the cancelled cheques to the signature on my supposed lease agreement, and confirmed they were quite different. The collection notices stopped.
However, in tracking me down, this company had checked my credit report, bringing down my credit score a little bit. I asked the credit bureau to investigate as before, but this time, the leasing company claimed the credit checks were not fraudulent. I called the same person at the leasing company and she said she'd address it. I eventually called the credit bureau again, they said they'd investigate again, but once again the leasing company replied to the credit bureau claiming the credit checks were not fraudulent.
Once again I called the same person at the leasing company. She didn't seem to be aware that credit checks like this can bring down a person's credit score, and didn't seem to care either. She asked me, in an insulting tone, "Are you bored?" wondering why I was pursuing this. I felt angry, told her not to insult me, and asked to speak to her supervisor. "I am the supervisor," she replied.
I didn't manage to talk to anyone else there about this, and I didn't pursue this one much further. The credit bureau didn't give me any further help in disputing the leasing company's claim. I kind of felt bad about not pursuing this as a matter of principle, but at the same time, I knew the effect on my credit score was small and the credit check would disappear from my file in a few years anyway (maybe even less than a year later by this time). Still, I remain a bit disappointed that I didn't find a way to completely clear this up.
Cost to me: Fuel for a trip to a notary, lower than usual notary fee ($30 or 40, maybe), and some postage stamps.
Emotional cost and inconvenience: Filling out a several-page affidavit, several phone calls, and a visit to a notary. Frustration at dealing with a horrible company and lack of a clear process for me to dispute their claims with the credit bureau.
EpilogueI've been requesting my free credit report from the credit bureaus almost once per year, and diligently checking my bank statement and credit card bills each month. There haven't been any further signs of fraud. My tax refunds have come on time, and in the correct amount, and I can submit them online now.
I never did find out how the identity thief found my Social Insurance Number. As I said last time, I've never had my SIN card go missing. (I used to carry it in my wallet, but some time before all this identity theft started, I stopped carrying it.) I don't know if my police reports (I didn't mention all of them in my story) led to any arrests or if they contributed to statistics that motivated law enforcement to take more action on identity theft. I don't know if my information is still out there with the potential to be misused again.
My life is essentially the same as it would be if this had never happened, just with a little more worry and a little more diligence about protecting my information. Meanwhile, life with all of its joys and challenges continues.
Thanks for reading, and I hope this helps anyone who may be experiencing something similar. I'll get into some subjects like credit monitoring, how to clear up identity theft, and identity theft insurance in future posts.