ORLANDO, Fla. – Ronda Grant, of Orange County, received one of those bank notices regarding a Northeast department store account that had all the makings of a mystery, identity theft or both.
“Well, that store went out of business in 1999," Grant said. “So, you figure, that card is no longer valid.”
Steinbach, a popular department store chain with locations in New Jersey and New York, went the way of Gimbels and Woolworth, falling to tough economic times with a going-out-of-business sale nearly 20 years ago.
Grant, a long time News 6 viewer, was concerned because Ohio-based Comenity Bank wanted her full Social Security number to keep the Steinbach account active.
“Very aggravating, very frustrating and very scary,” she said.
Scary, because Grant had been a target of various schemes in the past, and this one seemed very elaborate with a letter arriving at her old New York City address complete with her maiden name.
Her mother, in her 80s now, still lives at the New York address and called her daughter to ask about the department store notice.
“I haven’t heard the name of that store in decades,” Grant said.
It turns out Grant had a joint account with her mother and was able to determine it was activated in December 1991, the last transaction was 1996 and it was paid in full.
So why after more than 20 years was she getting a notice about the account?
News 6 contacted Comenity Bank and within 24 hours a bank spokesperson confirmed the notice was in fact a mistake.
Still, Grant had to call and officially close the account, something she said made no sense at all.
“The account that you can’t use anywhere,” Grant said. “It was only good for that store.”
Michael Thomas, of Consumer Debt Counselors, said he has worked with Comenity Bank on debt issues in the past and never faced “a situation like that before.”
“Even though the store closed they’re (Comenity Bank) still the ones issuing the funds,” Thomas said.
Thomas said that in theory, Steinbach customer accounts may have remained open, including accounts with a zero balance.
“After seven years, inactive accounts are usually dropped from your credit history," Thomas said. “If it’s not being reported to the credit bureaus, then it has no effect at all.”
Thomas said the case is a reminder to consumers to monitor their credit reports to make sure identity thieves have not opened accounts in their name.
The three credit report organizations include: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
You can get a free credit report at annualcreditreport.com
For more information on debt repair, go to www.consumerdebtcounselors.com.