With the increased use of online shopping and many brick and mortar stores not having done enough to protect the consumer information stored on their servers. Any one of us could be a victim of identity theft. It has happened more often than we would like to know. Last year it happened at Target and few other businesses. Below is the information you may find helpful on how to determine if you have become a victim. Below is the information on how to determine if you have become a victim. In addition, should you determine that your identity has been compromised; we have included recommended steps you may want to take to start the process of restoring your good name.
How Can I Tell if I am a Victim of Identity Theft?
Monitor the balances of your financial accounts. Look for unexplained charges or withdrawals. Other indications of identity theft can be:
- Failing to receive bills or mail when expected could mean an address change by the identity thief;
- Receiving credit cards for which you did not apply;
- Denial of credit for no apparent reason; or
- Receiving calls from debt collectors or companies about merchandise or services you didn’t buy.
Order a copy of your credit report from any of the three major credit bureaus. If at this time you feel you may be a victim, you should initiate a fraud alert. Once you receive your report, review it for accuracy. If you find inaccurate information, check your reports from the other two credit bureaus. Of course, some inaccuracies could be because of clerical, computer, or other errors and may not be a result of identity theft. It may take 7-10 business days to receive your reports.
If you believe you are a victim, understand that it may take some time and effort to recover your name, but by following the recommended steps below, we are confident that you are on the right path to recovering your identity.
- Contact the Police
- Contact the Three Major Credit Bureaus
- Close the Accounts You Know or Suspect Involve Identity Fraud
- Contact the Government Authorities
- Keep A Record of Your Actions and Contacts
1. Contact the Police
By contacting the police they can start investigating the crime. You will also want to obtain a copy of the police report, the police report number and the name of the investigator. Many banks, credit card companies and other agencies you will need to contact may require this information as proof of a crime. When filing a police report, provide as much documentation as you can to prove you have been a victim of identity theft. Documentation including collection letters, credit reports, an Identity Theft Affidavit can help the police create a thorough report. If the identity fraud occurred while you were away from home, you may also need to file a report in the jurisdiction where the fraud actually occurred. Be persistent if needed. You may be told they cannot take a report. Be sure to let the police know that you need a report to provide to other agencies to resolve the identity dispute. If your local police will not file a report, contact the county and state police. You may also ask that they file a Miscellaneous Incident Report instead.
2. Contact the Three Major Credit Bureaus
Contact each of the three major credit bureaus to notify them you have been a victim of identity theft and request that your file be flagged with a “Fraud Alert.” Fraud Alerts expire, so you will want to ask how long the Fraud Alert will be in effect and how you can extend it if needed. You may also want to file a “Victim Statement” with the bureaus asking them to notify you before any new accounts are opened or any existing accounts are changed in your name. This may identify if the perpetrator attempts to open additional accounts in your name. Request copies of your credit report from each bureau to review. If information contained within your report is inaccurate, you may dispute it and request it be changed. Request your credit report again in a few months. This will help you confirm if your requested changes have been made and may identify if your report has since changed without your knowledge. This may also identify additional identity theft occurring against you.
Equifax: Order Credit Report: 800-685-1111
Report Fraud: 800-525-6285
Experian®: Order Credit Report: 888-397-3742
Report Fraud: 888-397-3742
TransUnionSM: Order Credit Report: 800-888-4213
Report Fraud: 800-680-7289
Tips for How to Read Your Credit Report
- Check to make sure you recognize all accounts listed in your report and that the balances are in line with your records.
- Check the section listing the persons and entities that have requested or received a copy of your report. If you do not recognize a person or entity, you may want to further inquire.
- Make sure there were no inquiries to your credit report for loans or accounts you did not apply for. If there are accounts you do not recognize, this may be a sign that an identity perpetrator has fraudulently opened an account in your name.
- Check the address section to confirm there are no addresses listed for places you have never lived. If there are addresses you do not recognize, this may be a sign that an identity perpetrator has redirected your mail.
- Make sure your Social Security number is listed correctly.
- Make sure the employment history lists accurate information.
- Make sure the information is consistent across the 3 credit bureaus.
- If you identify any incorrect or suspect information, contact the credit bureau immediately. If the incorrect or suspect information is linked to a particular creditor, you will want to contact that creditor as well.
3. Close the Accounts That You Know or Suspect Involve Identity Fraud
CHECKS: If your checks have been stolen or you suspect they have been misused, contact your financial institution for stop payments. Familiarize yourself with your state’s law concerning stolen and forged checks. You can contact your State Attorney General’s office or local consumer protection agency to find out about any laws in your state related to identity fraud. Most states hold the financial institution responsible for losses related to a forged check. However, it may be your responsibility to have notified the financial institution of the possible forgery in a timely manner.
You may also want to contact the major check verification companies directly. These companies can alert retailers who use their databases not to accept your checks. They are:
- TeleCheck: 800-710-9898
- Certegy, Inc.: 800-437-5120
- You can also find out if the perpetrator has been passing bad checks on your account by calling SCAN at 800-262-7771.
CREDIT ACCOUNTS AND ATM CARDS:
- Close your current credit accounts and cancel your ATM cards. Ask the financial institution or agency to send you a fraud dispute form to complete. If they do not have one, you may use the attached sample letter as a guide. When reopening new accounts, be sure to use new PINs to reduce the risk of future identity theft.
- If your financial institution is not assisting you with resolving your issues with them related to the identity theft, you may contact the agency with the appropriate jurisdiction over your financial institution. If you are not sure what agency has jurisdiction over your particular financial institution, you can find out by visiting https://www.ffiec.gov/consumercenter.htm
- If you suspect your investment or brokerage accounts have been altered without your permission, report them to the Securities and Exchange Commission. You can file a report using their online Complaint Center at https://www.sec.gov/oiea/Complaint.html.
- Keep in mind that each creditor may have its own processes in place for handling a case of identity theft. Therefore, be sure to specifically ask each creditor what their process is, what is expected of you, and what you can expect from them.
4. Contact the Government Authorities
Federal Trade Commission
Counselors at the FTC can take your complaint and provide additional helpful advice on how to proceed once you have been a victim of identity theft. Their website is full of tips and also provides information on how to find out what laws have been passed in your state pertaining to identity theft.
Federal Trade Commission
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20580
Social Security Administration
The SSA Office of the Inspector General investigates allegations of identity theft. If you know or suspect your SSN may be involved in the identity theft against you, you may want to contact the SSA to notify them, and to request a copy of your Social Security Statement.
SSA Fraud Hotline
P.O. Box 17768
Baltimore, MD 21235
U.S. Postal Inspection Service
The USPIS is the law enforcement entity of the U.S. Postal Service and is the entity that investigates identity theft—specifically if the identity theft involves stolen mail or other violations of the integrity of our mail service.
U.S. Postal Inspection Service
475 L’Enfant Plaza SW
Washington, DC 20260
5. Keep A Record of Your Actions and Contacts
Keep a file of documents related to the identity theft. You will want to include documents such as disputed bills, credit reports, police reports, etc. Maintain a record of your telephone conversations with the persons and agencies you contact for assistance. Be sure to record the date and time of the call, the name and title of the person you spoke with, and the things you discussed.
Follow-up all telephone conversations in writing and send these letters certified with return receipt requested. Maintain a copy of this written correspondence for your file.
Maintain copies of any written correspondence you exchange related to the identity fraud. Keep original documents for your file; only mail copies.
Identity Theft Resource Center
P.O. Box 26833
San Diego, CA 92196
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse
P.O. Box 33752
San Diego, CA 92103
Victims Assistance of America, Inc.
P.O. Box 33752
Washington, DC 20033
Steps Toward Preventing Future Identity Theft
Be aware. Monitor your financial statements regularly.
Obtain your credit reports from each of the three major credit bureaus once every 6-12 months. Review these reports for any inaccurate information, or any transactions that you were not aware of or did not authorize. Secure your personal information at home. Consider keeping your sensitive, personal information in a safe or other location accessible only by you. Ask about security measures in your workplace. Find out who can obtain your personal information through work, how your information is secured, and how they discard personal records. Avoid giving out personal information over the phone. Especially when the telephone call is initiated by another party. Identity thieves may pose as a representative of a legitimate organization with whom you do business and may contact you to “verify” your information. Be suspicious of providing personal information online. Identity thieves use a practice called ‘phishing’ where they send emails that claim to be from a legitimate source – such as a bank, government entity, or your ISP – and ask you to update your account or personal information. Verify unsolicited email by calling the financial institution or government agency directly, or through a new Internet session. Carry only the information you need. Only take with you the credit cards you need, and avoid carrying your Social Security card.
Regularly review your recent Card account activity. Accessing your account online is a great way to stay up-to-date on recent charges. Shred documents containing your personal information before disposing. Identity thieves have been known to “dumpster dive” to obtain documents with personal information that have been discarded.
You may obtain a paper shredder at any local office supply company. Have the Postal Service hold your mail if you are going to be gone for a few days or more. Since identity thieves have also been known to obtain personal information by collecting individual’s mail before they return home, it is a good idea to collect your mail as soon as possible and to have the Postal Service hold your mail at the post office if you are planning on being away for any period of time. Another way to prevent account information from being stolen in the mail or from the trash is to reduce the amount of paper with account references.
Act fast! Any protections you have are stronger if you act quickly to try to correct potential identity theft.
P.S. We have sample letters that you can use if you were a victim of Identity Theft. Please contact us at 480-788-6278. We will be happy to email the sample letters to you.
Content for this article was obtained from the American Express website.