What is Identity Theft?
When someone else uses your name, Social
Security number, or other personal information to commit fraud, it is called
"identity theft." The imposter may open credit cards, get a driver's license or
apply for insurance in your name, and create havoc with your personal finances.
While identity theft is a crime that can be prosecuted, the thief is often
difficult to track. It is important to act quickly and assertively to minimize
the damage to your credit history.
Because of the nature of the crime, you may not
realize your identity has been stolen until you are denied credit, turned down
for a job, or sent a bill for purchases you did not make. By that time, your
good name and credit history may be in ruins. Rebuilding good credit in the
aftermath of identity theft can take months or even years.
In dealing with the authorities and financial
institutions, keep a log of all conversations, including dates, names, and phone
numbers. Note time spent and any expenses incurred. Confirm conversations in
writing. Send correspondence by certified mail, return receipt requested. Keep
copies of all letters and documents. Please
click here to contact our office if you believe you've been a
victim of identity theft.
Warning Signs of Identity Theft
You receive bills from a
credit account you did not open.
You see unauthorized
charges on your credit card or in bank accounts.
You are contacted by a
collection agency regarding a debt you did not incur.
Checks disappear from
Bank and credit billing
statements don’t arrive on time.
Your credit report shows
accounts you did not authorize.
You are turned down for a
credit card, loan, or mortgage due to your credit report.
What To Do If It Happens To You
1. Credit bureaus. Immediately call the
three credit bureaus - Experian, Equifax and Trans Union - at the phone numbers
below. Ask that your file be flagged with a fraud alert. Add a victim's
statement to your report, such as: "My ID has been used to apply for credit
fraudulently. Contact me at [your cell phone number] to verify all
applications." Be aware that these measures may
not entirely stop new fraudulent accounts from being opened by the imposter.
Request a copy of your credit report and review it for unauthorized account
After review of your credit reports, write to
the credit bureaus and ask them to remove any fraudulent accounts. Be sure to
inform the credit bureaus that you have been a victim of identity theft and
provide copies of any documentation that you may have.
EXPERIAN - (888) 397-3742
P. O. Box 2104, Allen, TX 75013-2104
EQUIFAX - (800) 525-6285
P. O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
TRANS UNION - (800) 680-7289
P .O. Box 2000, Chester, PA 19022-2000
2. Creditors. Immediately contact all
creditors with whom your name has been used fraudulently, by phone and in
writing. You may be asked by banks and creditors to fill out and notarize fraud
affidavits. Get replacement credit cards with new account numbers for your own
accounts that have been compromised. If someone fraudulently opened a credit
account in your name, ask the creditor to send you a letter acknowledging that
the account was not yours. Keep this "letter of clearance" for your records.
Carefully monitor your mail and credit card bills for evidence of new fraudulent
activity. Report it immediately to creditors.
3. Law enforcement. Report the identity
theft activity to your local police department. Give them as much information as
possible. Get a copy of your police report. Keep the police report number handy
and give it to creditors and others who require verification of the report.
Credit card companies and banks may require you to show the report in order to
verify the crime. Some police departments have been known to refuse to write
reports on such crimes. Be persistent!
4. Stolen checks and fraudulent bank
accounts. If you have had checks stolen or bank accounts set up fraudulently
in your name, notify the bank. Review your bank account statements for any
unauthorized activity. Put stop payments on any outstanding checks that you
didn’t write. Close your checking and savings accounts and obtain new accounts.
Give the bank a secret password for your account.
If a store rejects one of your checks, contact
the check verification company the store uses and order a report on yourself.
The major check verification companies are:
ChexSystems: (800) 428-9623 -
click here for
Certegy: (800) 437-5120, (866) 543-6315
SCAN: (800) 262-7771, (877) 382-7226
for order form
TeleCheck: (800) 710-9898
5. Debit cards. If your debit card has
been stolen, report it to your bank immediately. Get a new card, account number
and password. Do not use your old password. When creating a password, don't
use common numbers like the last four digits of your Social Security number or
6. Fraudulent change of address. Notify
the U.S. Postal Inspection Service if you suspect an identity thief has filed a
change of your address with the post office. Find out where fraudulent credit
cards were sent. Notify the local Postmaster for that address to forward all
mail in your name to your own address. You may also need to talk with the mail
7. Don't give in. Do not pay any bill
which is a result of identity theft. Do not cover any checks which were written
and/or cashed fraudulently. Do not file for bankruptcy. If any creditor,
financial institution or collection agency suggests otherwise, simply restate
your willingness to cooperate, but don't allow yourself to be coerced into
paying fraudulent bills.
Protecting Your Identity
You can reduce the chance that you will be a
victim of identity theft by taking the following precautions:
Do not carry your Social
Security Card with you unless you need it for a job
freeze on your credit reports with the 3
major credit bureaus.
Minimize the amount of
personal financial information you carry. Memorize
and PIN numbers instead of carrying them with
Reduce the number of
credit cards you use and only carry one or two credit cards. Use
credit cards that have your photo on
Keep personal financial
information in a secure place in your home. Shred identifying
information before throwing it away.
Do not give sensitive
information to unsolicited callers. Remember that most legitimate
businesses will not ask for your Social
Security or bank account numbers over the
Shield your hand when
entering your PIN at an ATM. Take your credit card receipts
slips. Shred them before throwing them away.
Do not have your driver's
license number, social security number or telephone number
printed on your checks.
Place your telephone
numbers on the Federal Do Not Call List at (888) 382-1222 or
Request that your name be
removed from various mail marketing lists and write to the
Direct Marketing Association, Mail
Preference Service, P.O. Box 643, Carmel, NY
or sign up online at
credit bureaus to remove your name from their mailing and telephone lists by
1-888-567-8688 or go to the website:
Please click here if you believe you've been a
victim of identity theft.