If you are a victim of identity theft or suspect that someone is using your name or personal information to make purchases or get credit, act immediately to prevent or minimize the damage!
First Step: FILE A POLICE REPORT.
The Federal Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act criminalizes fraud in connection with the theft and misuse of someone else’s personal data. Keep a copy of the report for submission to the credit card companies and other creditors for verification that a crime was reported. Call your creditors and explain that someone stole your identity and request that they close or freeze your accounts, then change your login information, passwords and PIN numbers.
Contact the three Credit Reporting Agencies/Credit Bureaus to place a fraud alert and get your credit reports. A fraud alert lasts one year and you’ll get a letter from each credit bureau confirming the fraud alert in your credit file which will make it harder for someone to open new accounts in your name.
Go to annualcreditreport.com to request free copies of your credit reports every twelve months or call 877-322-8228.
Get updates at IdentityTheft.gov/creditbureaucontacts
Review your credit reports and take note of accounts and transactions you do not recognize. Next, report the identity theft to the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) by going to IdentityTheft.gov or call 877-438-4338. IdentityTheft.gov will create your Identity Theft Report and recovery plan.
This report guarantees you certain rights which include:
The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act a/k/a “The FACT Act” provides consumer protections to assist victims of fraud and it includes: Fraud Alerts, Extended fraud alerts, Duty to Honor Fraud alerts, Block Trade Lines, Prevent Re-pollution, Prohibit Selling or Placing for Collection Identity Theft Debt, Notification Duties on Debt Collectors, Access to Business Records, Access to Credit scores, Notification of Negative Information to Customers, Time Restriction on Reinvestigations, Dispute Information with Reporters, New standards for Furnishers, Address Verification and Truncation of Numbers.
CLOSE ALL NEW ACCOUNTS OPENED IN YOUR NAME AND CALL THE FRAUD DEPARTMENT OF EACH BUSINESS WHERE AN ACCOUNT WAS OPENED.
Explain that your identity was stolen, ask the business to close the account and send you a letter confirming that the fraudulent account is not yours, that you’re not liable for it and that it was removed from your credit report. Keep this letter for use if the fraudulent account appears on your credit report later on. Also, keep a record of who you contacted and the date of contact.
REMOVE BOGUS CHARGES FROM YOUR ACCOUNTS BY CALLING THE FRAUD DEPARTMENT OF EACH BUSINESS.
Explain that you are the victim of identity theft, tell them which charges are fraudulent and request that they be removed. Again request from the business, a letter confirming that the fraudulent charges are removed and keep the letter for use should the account re-appear on your credit report in the future.
CORRECT YOUR CREDIT REPORT BY COMPLETING “IDENTITY THEFT LETTER TO A CREDIT BUREAU” FORM AND MAILING TO THE THREE CREDIT BUREAUS.
Include with the letter a copy of your Identity Theft Report, proof of your identity, explain which information on your report is fraudulent and request that the information be blocked. Mail letters to:
REPORT A MISUSED SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER BY CONTACTING YOUR LOCAL SSA OFFICE.
STOP DEBT COLLECTORS FROM TRYING TO COLLECT DEBTS YOU DON’T OWE.
REPLACE GOVERNMENT-ISSUED ID’S.
You may have to contact additional offices (e.g. Utilities, Telephone, Government Benefits, Checking Accounts, Student loans, Apartment/ House Rentals, Investment Accounts). Maybe even a fraudulent Bankruptcy filing.
Last Note: Go to OnGuardOnline.gov to learn how to avoid internet fraud, secure your computer and protect your personal information!
Denise Garrett is a financial counselor at the LDCENY and has more than 25 years experience in financial counseling and retail banking.