New York City Shredding – Caution after pair of scares

RANDI F. MARSHALL AND HENRY GILGOFF
6/26/2005 – Chuck Schalk received a call two years ago from American Express profusely thanking him for becoming a cardholder.

Just one problem: Schalk never applied for an American Express credit card. With more digging, the Oceanside resident found that the address on the application was in Brooklyn.

“I said, ‘That’s not me,'” Schalk recalled. “If they had not called me, I wouldn’t have known, but I stopped it before it got out of hand.”

The identity thieves, however, weren’t done yet. A year later, his Exxon credit card company called, asking if he had bought gas in Miami recently. The answer was a resounding no. But someone had bought gas four or five times in Miami, using Schalk’s credit card, ringing up about $40 each time.

It didn’t end up costing Schalk, who is the father of three young boys, because both times the situation was caught early. But it made him a far more nervous and careful consumer.

“It’s probably the number-one fear that we have,” he said. “I’m not very free about the information I have, and I felt betrayed, but then I realized it was beyond my control. That’s what makes you feel vulnerable.”

Since the two incidents, Schalk has stepped up his own efforts to control where his information ends up. He bought a shredder for documents with account numbers or other identifying information. He only shops online at “established” Web sites and won’t give any information over the phone.

But he knows that even that’s not enough. “You can safeguard all your information to the best of your ability, but you give it to one person, one entity – it could be anybody – and they could ruin your life.”

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