ID Theft: IF
YOU'RE A VICTIM
an identity thief can strike even if you've been very careful about keeping
your personal information to yourself. If you suspect that your personal
information has been hijacked and misappropriated to commit fraud or theft,
take action immediately, and keep a record of your conversations and
correspondence. Exactly which steps you should take to protect yourself depends on your
circumstances and how your identity has been misused. However, three basic
actions are appropriate in almost every case.
Your First Three Steps
First, contact the fraud departments
of each of the three major credit bureaus.
Tell them that you're an identity theft
victim. Request that a "fraud alert" be placed in your file, as well as a
victim's statement asking that creditors call you before opening any new
accounts or changing your existing accounts. This can help prevent an
identity thief from opening additional accounts in your name.
At the same time, order copies of your credit
reports from the credit bureaus. Credit bureaus must give you a free copy of
your report if your report is inaccurate because of fraud, and you request
it in writing. Review your reports carefully to make sure no additional
fraudulent accounts have been opened in your name or unauthorized changes
made to your existing accounts. Also, check the section of your report that
lists "inquiries." Where "inquiries" appear from the company(ies) that
opened the fraudulent account(s), request that these "inquiries" be removed
from your report. In a few months, order new copies of your reports to verify
your corrections and changes, and to make sure no new fraudulent activity
Please note: Fraud alerts
and victim statements are voluntary services provided by the credit bureaus.
Creditors do not have to consider them when granting credit. Thatís why itís
vital to continue checking your reports periodically. In addition, fraud
alerts and victim statements expire; you need to renew them periodically.
Ask each bureau about its policy.
close the accounts that you know or believe have
been tampered with or opened fraudulently
accounts include all accounts with banks, credit card companies and other
lenders, and phone companies, utilities, ISPs, and other service providers.
If you are closing your existing accounts, use new Personal Identification
Numbers (PINs) and passwords when you open new accounts. Avoid using easily
available information like your mothers maiden name, your birth date, the
last four digits of your SSN or your phone number, or a series of
identity thief has made charges or debits, ask the company about the
following forms for disputing those transactions:
For New Unauthorized Accounts: Does the company accept the ID
Theft Affidavit (see page 29)? If not, ask the representative to
send you the companyís fraud dispute forms.
For Your Existing Accounts: Ask the representative to send you the
companyís fraud dispute forms. If the company doesnít have
special forms, use the sample letter on page 18.
If your ATM card has been lost, stolen or otherwise compromised, cancel the
card as soon as you can. Get a new card with a new PIN.
checks have been stolen or misused, stop payment and ask your bank to notify
the check verification service with which it does business. While no federal
law limits your losses if someone steals your checks and forges your
signature, state laws may protect you. Most states hold the bank responsible
for losses from a forged check. At the same time, however, most states
require you to take reasonable care of your account. For example, you may be
held responsible for the forgery if you fail to notify the bank in a timely
manner that a check was lost or stolen. Contact your state banking or
consumer protection agency for more information.
contact major check verification companies directly for the following
To request that they notify retailers who use their databases not
to accept your checks, call:
1-800-710-9898 or 927-0188
Equifax Check Systems):
International Check Services:
To find out if the identity thief has been passing bad checks in
your name, call:
Follow up all calls in writing. Send you letter by certified mail,
return receipt requested, so you can document what the company
received and when. Keep copies for your files.
Third, file a report with your local
police or the police in the community where the identity theft took place.
Get a copy of the police report in case the
bank, credit card company or others need proof of the crime. Even if the
police can't catch the identity thief in your case, having a copy of the
police report can help you when dealing with creditors.
Tips on Filing a Police Report
Provide documentation. Furnish as
much documentation as you can to prove your case. Debt collection
letters, credit reports, your notarized ID Theft Affidavit, and
other evidence of fraudulent activity can help the police file a
Be persistent. Local
authorities may tell you that they canít take a report. Stress
the importance of a police report; many creditors require one to
resolve your dispute. Also remind them that under their
voluntary ďPolice Report Initiative,Ē credit bureaus will
automatically block the fraudulent accounts and bad debts from
appearing on your credit report, but only if you can give them a
copy of the police report. If you canít get the local police
to take a report, try your county police. If that doesnít
work, try your state police.
If youíre told that identity
theft is not a crime under your state law, ask to file a Miscellaneous
Incident Report instead. See page 25 for a list of state laws.
Thatís why itís also
important to file a complaint with the FTC. Law enforcement agencies use
complaints filed with the FTC to aggregate cases, spot patterns, and track
growth in identity theft. This information can then be used to improve
investigations and victim assistance.
Tips on Organizing Your Case
Accurate and complete records will greatly
improve your chances of resolving your identity theft case.
Follow up in writing
with all contacts youíve made on the phone or in person. Use
certified mail, return receipt requested.
Keep copies of all correspondence
or forms you send.
Write down the name of anyone you
talk to, what he or she told you, and the date the conversation
occurred. Use Chart Your Course of Action on page 14 to help you.
Keep the originals of supporting
documentation, like police reports, and letters to and from
creditors; send copies only.
Set up a filing system for easy
access to your paperwork.
Keep old files even
if you believe your case is closed. One of the most difficult
and annoying aspects of identity theft is that errors can
reappear on your credit reports or your information can be
re-circulated. Should this happen, youíll be glad you kept
For more information
visit the Federal Trade Commission website: www.ftc.gov.