Identity Theft

What To Do If It Happens To You.

Identity Theft is on the rise. In many cases the victims do not discover that their identity has been assumed by someone else until damage to their credit has occurred. Often it is a call from a collection agency demanding payment on an account that never opened or they stop receiving billing statements in the mail.

The first step in combating Identity Theft is in protecting your personal information. It may be impossible to prevent all the access to your personal information because there are several sources that criminals and marketing companies can obtain it from freely and effortlessly.

There are some steps you can take to reduce the chances of being victimized. There is no guarantee that your information will not be used fraudulently, but your information will be more secure and that will reduce your chances of being victimized.

Protecting Personal Information

Always question information gathers and do not be afraid to ask, "Do you really need this information or is there a valid purpose for these answers?" Merchants, creditors, government agencies, employer, educational institutions and public utility companies are always requesting personal information and at times there is no true need for that information except it is their policy. Always question the need for your social security number. Remember there are valid reasons for your personal information to be recorded but you can submit a request that your personal information be kept confidential.

  • Credit Card Account Numbers
    Do not write account numbers on checks or outside envelops and avoid giving account numbers over the telephone to companies that you have not dealt with previously.
  • Social Security Numbers
    Ask to have an alternate number used when social security numbers are used for identification purposes by schools, employers. Do not write your social security number on checks and if not required do not have it printed on your drivers license. Keep financial and tax records in a secure place. Before throwing away any documents that have personal information on them insure that personal information is destroyed. The investment of a paper shredder is more than worth it price when discarding old documents.
  • Address and Telephone Numbers
    Do not write your address and telephone number on receipts for credit card purchases.
  • Other Identifying Information
    Use unique passwords and identifiers for financial accounts instead of dates of births and your mother's maiden name. If your social security number is printed on your checks shred them before throwing them away.
  • Monitor Credit Reports
    Request a copy of your credit report annually and check for changed addresses and fraudulent account information. Copies can be obtained for as little as $8.00, but if you have been denied credit you can request a copy for free within thirty days of the denial. Click here for a list of Credit Reporting Bureaus.
  • Monitor Billing Statements
    Thoroughly every month for suspicious charges or any changes that you did not approve. If your statements do not arrive on time contact the creditor and inform them that the statement did not arrive or of any problems that you detect. If the creditor informs you that your address has been changed have them change it back to your original address and provide them with a password that must be used to make any changes and then contact the postal service to see a change of address had been filed in your name.
  • Pre-approved Credit Card Offers
    Credit card companies are always sending out offers for reduced interest rate. These offers are easy targets for thieves. Be sure to tear up these offers before disposing of them. You can contact the Credit Reporting Bureaus to have your name removed from pre-screen list that they provide to credit card companies for solicitation.

What If it Happens To You

It is important that you act quickly and aggressively to diminish the damage. When speaking with authorities and creditors keep a log of all conversations along with names, dates and telephone numbers. Keep tract of expenses and ask for confirmations in writing. Send correspondences by certified mail and keep copies of all letters and documents.

  1. Credit Reporting Bureaus
    Immediately call the fraud units of the three credit reporting companies. Report any thefts of your credit card or account numbers, request that your account be flagged. You can added statements to your reports such as: My identity has been used fraudulently to apply for credit and leave a contact telephone number. The bureaus should inform you how long the flag will stay in effect and how to request an extension if needed.

    Get the names and addresses and telephone numbers for creditors that have opened accounts without your knowledge. Request that the inquires that are fraudulent be removed from your reports. You can also have the credit reporting bureaus to contact anyone who has received your credit report in the last six months in order to alert them to the disputed and fraudulent information.

    You can also contact the Consumer Credit Counseling Service at (800)388-2227 for assistance in clearing false claims on your credit report.

  2. Creditors
    Contact all creditors that have been utilized fraudulently by telephone and in writing informing them of the theft of your identity. Have the creditors that you have legitimate accounts with to change your account numbers and issue new credit cards. Have all accounts that you close processes as "closed at consumers request."

    Some banks and creditors may request that you verify the fraud by providing notarized fraud affidavits. This could be costly and the law does not require you provide affidavits. A written statement and supporting documentation should suffice.

  3. Law Enforcement
    Contact all the police and sheriff's departments that may have jurisdiction in your case. Provide as much information and documentation as possible and request that a report be written. Request that the officer provide you with the police item number that is being issued along with the investigators name, and telephone numbers for future reference. Additionally ask for information on how you can obtain a copy of the police report.

  4. Stolen Checks
    If someone has stolen your check book or step up a bank account in your name fraudulently make sure you contact the bank and the check verification companies. Have the bank change you account numbers and issue new checks along with a password.

    Here is a list of Check Verification companies.

  5. ATM Cards
    If your ATM card or debit card has been stolen, lost or compromised report it immediately and have a new card issued with a different account number and password. Do not use common passwords like social security numbers or date of births.

  6. Fraudulent change of address
    Contact the local postal inspector if you suspect that your identity has been used fraudulently to change your address and or used the mail to commit bank or credit fraud. Also find out the address that was being used to commit the fraud.

  7. Social Security Number abuse
    If your social security number was used fraudulently contact the Social Security Administration and make a report. The Social Security Administration has established a fraud victim criterion that must be met in order the have your social security number. changed. You can also request a copy of your Earnings and Benefits statement to check for accuracy.

  8. Passports
    If someone has used your identity fraudulently contact the passport office in writing to alert them of the possibility that someone may attempt to obtain a passport fraudulently in your name.

  9. Telephone service
    If you discover long distance calls on your bill or if you loose your calling card contact your long distance carrier and have your account changed and have a password installed to prevent anyone from changing your service.

  10. Drivers license number misuse
    If someone is using your drivers license number to cash bad checks have your number changed. Contact the Department of Motor Vehicles(DMV) to see if someone has had another license issued in your name. Go to the local DMV office and have a fraud alert placed on your license and request a new number. Request a fraud complaint from and fill it out and send it to the DMV investigation office.

  11. False civil and criminal judgment
    Some victim of identity theft have been accused of crimes committed by the imposter. If this happens contact the court that the judgment was issued in and inform them that you are a victim of identity theft. You may have to provide amply proof before the judgment is over turned. You can also contact the Department of Justice and the FBI for assistance in clearing your name.

  12. Do Not Give In
    You do not have to pay any portion of any bill that is the result of identity theft. Do not allow the bank to deduct money from your account for checks that were written or cashed fraudulently. Do not file for bankruptcy. Your credit rating should not be permanently affected and no legal action should be taken against you. If any creditors imply otherwise, clearly state that you are willing to cooperate, but do not allow yourself to be pressured into paying fraudulent bills.