Identity theft is a crime in which an imposter obtains key pieces of information, such as Social Security and driver’s license numbers, and uses them for his or her own gain. Victims are left with a tainted reputation and the complicated task of restoring their good names.
Tips to Protect your Information
- Guard your social security number
- Remove mail promptly from mailbox
- Protect your receipts
- Guard personal information
- Shred personal information
- Review credit report
- Secure all PIN numbers and Passwords
The Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act (FACTA), enacted to protect consumers, was recently updated to include the right to a free credit report every twelve months from any of the three national credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax or TransUnion). If you obtained a free report in March of 2012, you would be eligible for another free report in March 2013, for example.
A free credit report is one of many steps you can take to help protect against identity theft, the fastest growing crime in America.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE A VICTIM:
1. Credit Bureaus. Immediately report the situation to the fraud units of the three credit reporting companies. Experian (formerly TRW), Equifax and TransUnion. If you notify one bureau that you are a victim of identity theft, it will notify the other two.
2. Creditors. Contact all creditors immediately with any new accounts whom your name has been used fraudulently, by phone and in writing. You can see evidence of fraudulent use on any accounts in your credit reports.
Free Credit Reports: www.annualcreditreport.com
3. Debt collectors. If debt collectors attempt to require you to pay the unpaid bills on fraudulent credit accounts, ask for the name of the company, the name of the person contacting you, phone number and address. Tell the collector that you are a victim of fraud and are not responsible for the account. Ask the collector for the name and contact information for the referring credit issuer, the amount of the debt, account number and the dates of the charges. Ask if they need you to complete their fraud affidavit form or if you can use the Federal Trade Commission form. Follow up in writing to the debt collector explaining your situation and ask that they confirm in writing to you.
4. Law enforcement. Report the crime to your local police or sheriff’s department.
5. Stolen checks. If you have had checks stolen or bank accounts set up fraudulently, report it to the appropriate check verification companies. Your bank branch should be able to provide you with a fraud affidavit. Put stop payments on any outstanding checks that are questionable. Cancel your checking and savings accounts and obtain new account numbers.
6. ATM Cards. If your ATM or debit card has been stolen or compromised, report it immediately.
7. Fraudulent change of address. Notify the local Postal Inspector if you suspect an identity thief has filed a change of your address with the post office or has used the mail to commit fraud.
8. Social Security Number misuse. Contact the Social Security Administration (SSA) to report fraudulent use of your SSN such as welfare or Social Security benefit fraud. They do not handle cases of financial or criminal identity theft.
HOW CAN I TELL IF I’M A VICTIM?
Monitor the balances of your financial accounts. Look for unexplained charges or withdrawals. Other indications could be: failing to receive bills or other mail signaling an address change by the 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.