What to do if you become a victim of Identity Theft
It is important to act immediately to stop the thief’s further use of your identity. Call the fraud units of the three
credit reporting companies:
Experian, Equifax and Trans Union. Report the theft of your credit cards or numbers. Ask that your accounts be flagged. Also, add a victim’s statement to your report. Be sure to ask how long the fraud alert is posted on your account, and how you can extend it if necessary.
Report the crime to the police immediately. Give them as much documented evidence of the fraud as possible. Get a copy of the police report in order to verify the crime.
Immediately call all your debit and credit card issuers. Close these accounts. Tell them to process the old accounts as “closed at consumer's request” instead of “card lost or stolen” because this reference can be interpreted as blaming you for the loss. Obtain replacement cards with new account numbers and create new ATM passwords. Notify your bank(s) of the theft. Cancel your checking and savings accounts and obtain new account numbers. If you have had checks stolen or bank accounts set up fraudulently, report it to TeleCheck, or Equifax.
The nearest office of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling might be able to give you advice on removing fraudulent claims from your credit report. Call (800) 388-2227.
Keep a log of all conversations with authorities and financial institutions, including dates and names.
Consider seeking legal counsel, especially if you have difficulty clearing up your credit history, or your case is complex and involves a lot of money.
Add yourself to the Identity Theft Registry at the Department of Justice. Identity theft victims can contact the Department of Justice for information about inclusion to the department’s Identity Theft Registry. This Registry assists victims who are wrongfully identified as criminals due to the illegitimate use of their identities by identity thieves. Basic registration requires the submission of an application along with fingerprints and court verification. Once registered, any inquiries about you to the criminal his-tory system will return a reply that you are a victim of identity theft. You may also have the Department of Justice notify individuals and agencies you designate that you're an identity theft victim.
Identity theft response and risk management is addressed in depth at these sites:
Identity Theft Task Force
(888) 880-0240 toll free.
Federal Trade Commission
California Attorney General
Obtaining a credit report
Equifax (888) 766-0008 Experian (888) 397-3742 TransUnion (800) 680-7289
Remember, you are entitled to a free
credit report if you are a victim of iden-tity theft, if you have been denied credit in the past 60 days, if you receive welfare benefits, or if you are unemployed.
Identity Theft Prevention
The crime of identity theft has become more and more prevalent. Using a variety of methods, criminals steal credit card numbers, driver’s license numbers, Social Security numbers, ATM cards, telephone calling cards and other key pieces of individuals’ identities. They use this information to impersonate their victims, spending as much money as they can in as short a time as possible before moving on to someone else’s name and account information. Taking the following steps in advance, may minimize your losses in case of identity theft:
Reduce access to your personal data. To minimize the amount of information a thief can steal, do not carry extra credit cards, your Social Security card, birth certificate or passport in your wallet or purse, except when needed.
Reduce the amount of personal information that is "out there." Consider the following: remove your name from the marketing lists of the three credit reporting bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. This will limit the number of pre-approved offers of credit that you receive. Call (888) 5-OPTOUT or (888) 567-8688 to opt out of pre-approved offers of credit or go online to www.optoutprescreen.com.
Practice responsible information handling: Carefully review your credit card statements and phone bills, including cellular phone bills, for unauthorized use. Do not toss pre-approved credit offers in your trash or recycling bin without first tearing them into small pieces or shredding them. Do the same with other sensitive information like credit card receipts, phone bills and so on.
Minimize online posting: You should assume that any information you post online can be accessed by someone seeking to defraud you. Be responsible about posting information, whether at social networks, or on other unsecure sites. A determined thief may have the resources to connect a casual post saying you're leaving your home, with a database storing your address, and could take advantage of that information. A site's privacy settings may lend some protection, but your discretion can be the most effective strategy.
Social Security numbers: Protect your Social Security number (SSN). Release it only when absolutely necessary (like taxes, employment records, or banking, stock and property transactions). The SSN is the key to your credit and banking accounts and is the prime target of criminals. If a business requests your SSN, ask if it has an alternative number that can be used instead. If the SSN is requested by a government agency, look for the Privacy Act notice. This will tell you if your SSN is required, what will be done with it, and what happens if you refuse to provide it. Order your Social Security Statement once a year to check for fraud.