Identity theft takes many forms and occurs when someone gets a hold of your personal identifying information, like your name, Social Security number, credit card number or other identifying information, without your permission and pretends to be you in order to open a credit card account, get a loan in your name, buy big-ticket items or commit other crimes.
How do you know if you are a victim of Identity theft.
When someone steals your identity, you often don’t know that your identity has been stolen. In the meantime the thief have the ability to rent an apartment, obtain a credit card, or establish a telephone account in your name. Unfortunately, many people won’t know that their identity has been stolen until they review their credit report or a credit card statement and notice charges you didn't make or until you're contacted by a debt collector. By then a lot of damage has been done.
You receive a credit card in the mail that you've never applied for.
You apply for a mortgage or car loan and are turned down because of problems with your credit history when you know you have a good credit score and have always paid your bills on time.
A Debt collector calls to demand payment on a 6 month overdue account for a credit card you have never had.
You get something in the mail about an apartment you never rented, a house you never bought, or a job you never held.
Medical providers bill you for services you didn’t use.
You get notice that your information was compromised by a data breach at a company where you do business or have an account.
The IRS notifies you that more than 1 tax return was filed in your name, or that you have income from an employer you don’t work for.
Did you know...
A very common form of identity theft happens within families. A parent, brother, sister, cousin or uncle steals your Social Security Number and uses it to apply for credit.
If the term identity theft sounds scary, for the people that get victimized, it's a nightmare. The best way to find out if your identity has been compromised is to monitor your accounts and bank statements each month, and check your credit report on a regular basis. If you check your credit report regularly, you may be able to limit the damage caused by identity theft.
However, if you determine that your ID has been stolen, here are a few identity theft reporting steps you must take immediately to restore your good name
File a police report
Report the crime immediately to your local police department. Provide the police with as much documented evidence as possible. Make sure the police report lists all the fraudulent accounts in dispute. A police report that provides specific details of the identity theft is considered an Identity Theft Report.
An Identity Theft Report entitles you to certain legal rights when it is provided to the three Credit Bureau or to companies where the thief misused your information. An Identity Theft Report is also necessary to:
Permanently block fraudulent information that results from identity theft, such as accounts or addresses, from appearing on your credit report.
The report will also make sure these debts do not reappear on your credit reports.
The report can prevent a company from continuing to collect debts that result from identity theft, or selling them to others for collection.
Finally, an Identity Theft Report is also needed to place an extended fraud alert on your credit report.
Save a copy of the Identity Theft Report, keep the name and phone number of the investigating officer. Your creditors will likely require you to show the report in order to verify the crime.
Visit www.identitytheft.gov to report identity theft and get a recovery plan. This is a free website created by the Federal Trade Commission (of the United States Government). On this site, you will be able to report your identity theft online. You will then get an action plan and will even have access to real people who can help you resolve your problem.
Check your credit reports and dispute any unauthorized transactions
Awareness is an effective weapon against many forms identity theft. Despite the law that require creditors to pay attention to fraud alerts, surprisingly most of them don't.
Whether or not you are a victim of identity theft, take advantage of your free annual credit reports and Order your free credit report.
Phone: (877) 322-8228
Notify Credit Bureau
Immediately report identity theft to the fraud department of the three major Credit Bureau. Here is their fraud alert contact information. When you notify the Credit Bureau, they will immediately place a fraud alert on your record. Placing a fraud alert means that your file will be flagged. This in turn means creditors are required to call you before extending credit. The Credit Bureau will mail you a notice of your rights as an identity theft victim.
Under the new provisions of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you can place a fraud alert for only 90 days. However you can request a fraud alert extension to seven years but this will require a copy of your Identity Theft Report filed with your local police department. Also be away that you can cancel the fraud alert anytime.
If you are a victim of Identity theft and your credit reports shows that an imposter has opened fraudulent accounts in your name, contact those creditors immediately by telephone and in writing. Recent FCRA amendments allows you to prevent businesses from reporting fraudulent accounts to the Credit Bureau.
The creditors will ask you to fill out fraud affidavits. Here is a sample of the FTC uniform affidavit form that most creditors accept.
Review of your bank and credit card statements
Reviewing your bank and credit card statements regularly will help you catch transactions that don't look right and allows you to alert your bank immediately.
Review of your credit reports
Reviewing your credit reports annually gives you a snap shot of what's in your credit file and allows you to dispute any inaccurate or incomplete information. You can order your free credit report once a year from the 3 major credit reporting agencies.
Initiated by the credit bureaus, a security / credit freeze prevents new creditors from accessing your credit file and others from opening accounts in your name until you lift the freeze. This makes it less likely an identity thief can open new financial accounts in your name.
Initiated by the credit bureaus, a fraud alert adds an extra layer of protection to your credit report. Placing a fraud alert is highly recommended if you have been a victim of identity theft.
Place a fraud alert on your account with the credit reporting agencies by calling:
Identity and credit monitoring
A service provided by the credit bureaus, identity and credit monitoring services scan your credit reports for you and alert you when a change occurs.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) gives you specific rights when you are, or believe that you are, a victim of identity theft.
You have the right to ask that nationwide consumer reporting agencies place "fraud alerts" in your file to let potential creditors and others know that you may be a victim of identity theft. A fraud alert can make it more difficult for someone to get credit in your name because it tells creditors to follow certain procedures to protect you. It also may delay your ability to obtain credit.
You may place a fraud alert in your file by calling just one of the three nationwide consumer reporting agencies. As soon as that agency processes your fraud alert, it will notify the other two, which then also must place fraud alerts in your file.Online By calling By mail
Equifax Consumer Fraud Division,
PO Box 740256,
Atlanta, GA 30374
Experian Fraud Center
P.O. Box 9554,
Allen, TX 75013
Transunion Fraud Alert
TransUnion Fraud Victim Assistance Department,
P.O. Box 2000,
Chester, PA 19016
An initial fraud alert stays in your file for at least 90 days. An extended alert stays in your file for seven years. To place either of these alerts, a consumer reporting agency will require you to provide appropriate proof of your identity, which may include your Social Security number. If you ask for an extended alert, you will have to provide an identity theft report An identity theft report includes a copy of a report you have filed with a federal, state, or local law enforcement agency, and additional information a consumer reporting agency may require you to submit.
You have the right to free copies of the information in your file (your "file disclosure"). An initial fraud alert entitles you to a copy of all the information in your file at each of the three nationwide agencies, and an extended alert entitles you to two free file disclosures in a 12-month period following the placing of the alert. These additional disclosures may help you detect signs of fraud, for example, whether fraudulent accounts have been opened in your name or whether someone has reported a change in your address. Once a year, you also have the right to a free copy of the information in your file at any consumer reporting agency, if you believe it has inaccurate information due to fraud, such as identity theft. You also have the ability to obtain additional free file disclosures under other provisions of the FCRA.
You have the right to obtain documents relating to fraudulent transactions made or accounts opened using your personal information. A creditor or other business must give you copies of applications and other business records relating to transactions and accounts that resulted from the theft of your identity, if you ask for them in writing. A business may ask you for proof of your identity, a police report, and an affidavit before giving you the documents. It also may specify an address for you to send your request. Under certain circumstances, a business can refuse to provide you with these documents.
You have the right to obtain information from a debt collector. If you ask, a debt collector must provide you with certain information about the debt you believe was incurred in your name by an identity thief - like the name of the creditor and the amount of the debt.
If you believe information in your file results from identity theft, you have the right to ask that a consumer reporting agency block that information from your file. An identity thief may run up bills in your name and not pay them. Information about the unpaid bills may appear on your consumer report. Should you decide to ask a consumer reporting agency to block the reporting of this information, you must identify the information to block, and provide the consumer reporting agency with proof of your identity and a copy of your identity theft report. The consumer reporting agency can refuse or cancel your request for a block if, for example, you don't provide the necessary documentation, or where the block results from an error or a material misrepresentation of fact made by you. If the agency declines or rescinds the block, it must notify you. Once a debt resulting from identity theft has been blocked, a person or business with notice of the block may not sell, transfer, or place the debt for collection.
You also may prevent businesses from reporting information about you to consumer reporting agencies if you believe the information is a result of identity theft. To do so, you must send your request to the address specified by the business that reports the information to the consumer reporting agency. The business will expect you to identify what information you do not want reported and to provide an identity theft report.
You may have additional rights under your State law. For more information, contact your local consumer protection agency or your state attorney general.
Order your earnings report from the Social Security Administration if you suspect an identity thief has used your SSN for employment, order your Personal Earnings and Benefits Estimate Statement by calling (800) 772-1213 or visit. www.ssa.gov
If you are in the military, place an active duty alert on your credit report when you are away from your usual duty station. You can place an active duty alert on your three credit reports as an extra protection against identity theft. The alert remains on your credit reports for 12 months. Contact the fraud departments for the three Credit Bureau for more information.
Under federal law, you can freeze and unfreeze your credit record for free at Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. When you put a Credit Freeze on your credit account, you automatically restrict access to your credit file, there by making it more difficult for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name. That restriction stays in place until you lift the freeze. Please note: The federal law requiring free security freezes does not apply to someone who requests your credit report for employment, tenant-screening, or insurance purposes.
To place a credit freeze on your credit report, you will need to contact the 3 major credit reporting agencies below. You will be required to supply your name, address, date of birth, Social Security number and other personal information.
After receiving your freeze request, each credit bureau will provide you with a unique PIN (personal identification number) or password. Keep the PIN or password in a safe place. You will need it if you choose to lift the freeze.