Hey everybody. Hope all is well. No comics until next weekend - Thanksgiving weekend. Why?
Well, I've been securing every little tidbit of my personal information - as I have recently become a victim of identity theft this Friday. <-- yes, just the other night.
---> And it totally sucks. I haven't slept in nearly 48 hours. I've been running around to police departments, state motor vehicle agencies, cancelling my bank accounts, opening new bank accounts, calling my debtors to warn them of what had happened, and putting freezes on absolutely everything. <--- and there's still more to do on Monday when the government agencies open up on business hours.
And still, the damage is done. My SS number, my DOB, my name, and my DL number have been confiscated into a total stranger's hands - Now I'm literally living in identity theft hell.
As I filed the report at the DMV, a woman who worked there hugged me and told me to warn everybody that I could, so today I'm going to teach you all about what to do and where to go if you totally F*ck up your life in fifteen minutes without the ability to turn back time via Ocarina, Delorean, or Phone Box.
First, a warning to college students and those entering college - or about to leave college and begin repayment of your federal student loans:
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS DEBT RELIEF OR TOTAL DEBT FORGIVENESS!!!
<-- well, for some people, there is a debt forgiveness available, but it only becomes available if you are a teacher under certain conditions, or if you are a public employee like with a division of the government (and that's only after payment of 10 years of your college to begin with).
Find out more on this: studentaid.ed.gov/sa/repay-loa…
Anyway, if you ever end up in the same situation that I have this Friday - here's where to start:www.identitytheft.gov/info-los…
IdentityTheft.gov is a government run website, which means it's safe to follow their links - and it's best to follow their instructions when you screw up your life by losing your wallet, or some such.
You MUST follow all of these instructions!
If you sign a contract, like I had by accident, giving some total scam artist the power of attorney over your life savings - you will need to contact the Attorney Gerenal of your State (For me: NJ) ASAP - in order to find out your options legally, then you will need to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commision www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/…
, and the BBB (Better Business Bureau) to get those fuckers shut the hell down before they destroy someone else's life.
My nightmare has not yet ended in whole - despite the fact that I have followed up on all of these instructions -because now I have to watch for scammers filing my income taxes before I do to the IRS in January of 2016, and scammers attempting to open loans on my SS number, and scammers pretending to be me (which I have no credit due to my incredible college loans, so I don't understand why, but anyway I defer).
On Monday - I have to call my Student Loan Holder and let them know what happened - as well as the Inspector General of the Department of Education. www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list…How did I fall into this trap so easily?
Well, I'm not any fool who believes the bullshit spam mails and spam phone calls. I can typically see through all of the traps and misgivings. I'm not one to accept a million fake USD from the 'Prince of Nigeria,' as it were.
I - however - am nearly at the end of the deferral period on my college loans, and the letter that I had received in the mail was a certified first-class mail that had stated the people - in question - were affiliated with the Department of Education, and were there to help me make arrangements in order to pay off my current college debt and lower the fees payments, and also be applicable to an eventual loan forgiveness.
Now, I am a public worker, and am eligible for the PSLF offered by the Student Education Loan Department of the Federal Government, so naturally I figured - yeah, sounds about right. Endorsed by the Dept. of EDU and offers debt forgiveness because I am a PSLF certified worker. Good! (NO! NOT GOOD!)
Yeah, so... back to square one.
I was duped, stung, taken for a ride - and it's going to be a long, long, long, long time before I can actually be assured that my life is completely secured again for the whole. Like maybe 10 years long... in which, I'll be nearly fifty by then and getting near retirement age.
So, whatever. Comics will be up next Sunday. Yes, they will. I have a four-day weekend to get ahead of things, and get artwork done.
My frames are rendered for this week. I just have to put them together, which I had every intention of doing this weekend, but now I need a 'mass dandelion break--- I need a raunchy Al Lowe game to put my life back into balance and bring me laughs.
Leisure Suit Larry ---> Take me away!
NEVER, NEVER, NEVER GIVE YOUR SS#, BANK CARD #, or DL NUMBER OUT OVER THE PHONE!!!
The IRS ALWAYS
corresponds via snail mail. The DMV ALWAYS
corresponds via snail mail. The bank ALWAYS
corresponds via snail mail, unless you've made arrangements to receive email bank statements - but their contracts and newsletters and anything that you will need to sign off on, will ALWAYS be sent via snail mail.
As it is. Stick to .gov websites when dealing with your private information. If you fuck up like I had, then quickly go to the IDTheft.gov website and follow the instructions within the first 24 hours after you had realized that your personal identity had been comprimised.
Put a fraud alert or FREEZE on your credit lines within the credit unions. There are four of them now in the USA:
Experian: www.experian.com www.experian.com/
Trans Union: www.transunion.com www.transunion.com/
Equifax: www.equifax.com www.econsumer.equifax.com/otc/…
Innovis: www.innovis.com www.innovis.com/
Verify spelling on all of the websites that you visit, and ALWAYS look for the security encryption mark on your web-browser. <--- If it's not there, BACK OUT!
When dealing with businesses and loan assistance companies or non-profit charities, always confirm their accreditation through the Better Business Bureau first:
And be very, very careful not to lose or give away your personal information to anyone.... ever.
There be thieves among us, and they often appear to us as a sheep - but are truly wolves who would devour your life.
Stay safe. Until next time.