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It looked like junk mail. A plain white envelope from a bank I didn’t recognize—another credit card offer. I almost threw it, unopened, into the recycling heap.

But, there was something odd about this piece of mail. The letter was addressed to me and, although my name, street address, and the ZIP code were correct, the city was not. The address read Portland, Maine. But I live in a suburb.

I opened the letter and read the following:

“Our bank issues Victoria’s Secret credit card accounts. A review of your above-referenced account revealed potential security concerns and/or irregular credit card transactions. We are writing to notify you that your use of your Victoria’s Secret credit card account has been suspended pending an investigation of our investigation.”

I’m a married guy in my 30s. I don’t have a Victoria’s Secret credit card. Really!

I already knew the answer, but I texted my wife just to make sure she never had such an account. Nope.

Then, I paused. I considered that this might be a phishing attempt. Although they usually come by email, it occurred to me that this letter might want me to call the 800 number provided and give details like my Social Security number.

But I Googled the bank name and it seemed legit. The bank issues store credit cards for Victoria’s Secret and many other retailers. I also uncovered a lot of complaints about fraudulent accounts opened in other people’s names.

Uh-oh.

I pulled up my credit report and, sure enough, there was an inquiry from about a week prior. Since, at the time, I didn’t subscribe to a product like TransUnion Credit Monitoring, I didn’t receive any alerts about the inquiry. As I’ll explain in a moment, these alerts are one of the best parts of subscribing to a credit monitoring service.

The new account hadn’t appeared on my credit report yet, but it would in a few more days. It was at this moment that I immediately wished I had a more robust credit monitoring and/or identity theft solution in place, which would’ve called or texted me as soon as there was an inquiry.

I immediately did what anyone should do in this situation: I went to the websites of the three major credit bureaus: TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian and placed a fraud alert on my credit reports. Doing so locked down my credit report from being used to open new accounts for a period of time.

I pondered my next move.

Within a few days, I received more evidence in the mail—my first Victoria’s Secret credit card statement! There I learned that a single charge of $708.25 was made in Pleasanton, California…the other side of the country! I assume the card was opened on the same date in the store.

Armed with this information, I submitted a dispute to the credit bureaus. Fortunately, you can now do this online. Unfortunately, however, I quickly learned that the burden is on me to provide evidence that I didn’t open the account. As crazy as it sounds, I didn’t have that.

I learned that I probably should’ve filed a police report in the town where the account was opened. I ultimately didn’t need to do that.

I wrote and mailed a certified letter to the card-issuing bank outlining my case. I pointed out that I live in Maine, was not in California at the time, and that the information used to open the account was incorrect…I live near, but not in, the city of Portland.

Fortunately, the issue resolved soon thereafter. The bank acknowledged the fraudulent account, contacted the credit bureaus, and removed the account from my reports.

Things don’t always work out so easily, which is why paying a few dollars a month toward a product like TransUnion Credit Monitoring isn’t a terrible idea. Think of it as insurance for your identity.

TransUnion Credit Monitoring provides unlimited TransUnion credit score and report updates. Most importantly, subscribers will receive instant alerts of changes to any of your three credit reports. Events that trigger an update include hard credit inquires, new or closed accounts, late payments, or changes to your address or other personal information. Had I been subscribed, I might have gotten an alert to the suspicious activity much sooner.

When you’re a TransUnion Credit Monitoring subscriber, you can also freeze your TransUnion credit report instantly with their 1-Touch Credit Lock feature.

In the worst case, TransUnion also gives you ID theft resolution guidance and up to $1 million in ID theft insurance.

I now understand just how valuable this last feature is. Identity theft victims aren’t always able to resolve their cases so easily. Had the issuing bank required more evidence to prove that the credit card account was fraudulent, I may have had to hire an attorney or, at the very least, spend hours or my own time gathering documents, making calls, and writing letters to remove the fraudulent information from my report.

According to a study by the Federal Trade Commission, nearly half of victims of identity theft in which a new account was opened in their name spent over 10 hours resolving the fraud, and 29 percent of victims spent more than 40 hours on the resolution!

In most cases, identity theft victims who discovered the fraud quickly spent less time and spent less out-of-pocket money resolving the fraud.

A product like TransUnion Credit Monitoring can not only alert you to identity theft quickly, but also give you he guidance you need to resolve it, saving you time and money.

Want to learn more? Read our TransUnion Credit Monitoring review or try TransUnion Credit Monitoring for seven days for just $1.

Read more:

  • 7 Signs You’re At Risk Of Identity Theft
  • Best Credit Monitoring And ID Theft Protection Services