November 2, 2006  
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  On Your Side

Featured Issue: Identity Theft

If You Have Become a Victim

If you've been a victim of identity theft, take these immediate steps:

Alert the Credit Bureaus
  • Have the credit bureaus flag your file with a fraud alert. Write a victim's statement and ask that it be attached to your report. In the statement ask to be contacted to verify any new account applications.
  • Get the names and contact information for the individuals who have successfully opened any fraudulent accounts. Share that information with the police.
  • If anyone has requested a copy of your credit report within the past 6 months, ask the credit bureaus to notify each party about the fraudulent use of your account. Have the bureaus remove any such accounts from your credit report.
  • The Consumer Credit Counseling Service (800-388-2227) can help in clearing false claims from your credit report.
  • Get legal help if credit bureaus or other creditors are uncooperative about removing credit report entries relating to the fraud. Use the local American Bar Association or Legal Aid office to locate an attorney knowledgeable about consumer law.
  • Here's how to contact each of the three main credit reporting bureaus:
    (800) 685-1111
    P.O. Box 740241
    Atlanta, GA 30374
    (800) 888-4213
    P.O. Box 1000
    Chester, PA 19022
    (888) 397-3742
    P. O. Box 2002
    Allen, TX 75013
Report the Crime
  • You should contact your local police or sheriff's department. If the crime was committed out of your jurisdiction you may also need to report it to law enforcement where the crime took place.
  • Include as much documented evidence as possible. Be aware that some police departments do not routinely write reports on identity theft crime. If that's the case, don't be afraid to insist that a report be written. It will help.
  • Keep in close contact with the person assigned to investigate the crime.
Contact Your Creditors
  • Alert each of your creditors that you've been a victim of ID theft. It's a good idea to do this in writing as well as over the telephone.
  • Fill out a Federal Trade Commission fraud affidavit. Many financial institutions and credit companies recognize this recently approved uniform fraud affidavit. It can help speed the process of removing fraudulent information from your accounts.
  • Close any fraudulently used credit account, with the notation that the account has been closed "at customer's request". It's actually smart to NOT mention the fraud.
  • Be aware that the criminal using your identity may not realize your discovery yet, so pay close attention to your bills and mail for any indications of on-going fraudulent activity. Share any new evidence with your creditors, the credit bureaus and the police.
Driver's License Fraud

If someone has fraudulently used your driver's license number:

  • Have a fraud alert put on your license by contacting your state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Ask if another license has been issued in your name.
  • Consider changing your driver's license number.
  • Initiate an investigation into the fraud by filing a DMV complaint and supplying any documentation you may have.
  • To locate your state DMV.
Social Security Number Abuse

If your Social Security Number (SSN) has been used fraudulently:

  • Alert the Social Security Administration and report the SSN fraud. Fraud Hotline: (800) 269-0271.
  • Order a copy of your Earnings & Benefits Statement: (800) 772-1213 to document the abuse of your SSN for tax filing purposes.
False Judgements or Arrest

If false civil or criminal judgments have been filed against you, or if you've been wrongfully arrested or prosecuted:

  • Alert the court where the judgment was entered that you are a victim of identity theft.
  • Alert the police department and the court in the jurisdiction of the arrest.
  • Get in touch with your state Department of Justice and the FBI. They can guide you though the process of clearing your name.
Stolen Checks or Fraudulent Accounts

If your checks have been stolen, or if bank accounts have been set up fraudulently in your name:

  • Stop payment on any outstanding checks that you may be uncertain about.
  • Cancel all existing checking and savings accounts and open new accounts.
  • Report the theft to the check verification companies.

TeleCheck: (800) 710-9898
Certigy/Equifax: (800) 437-5120
CheckRite: (800) 766-2748
International Check Services: (800) 526-5380
Chexsystems: (800) 428-9623
SCAN: (800) 262-7771
CrossCheck: (800) 843-0760

False Change of Address

If you have reason to suspect that someone has falsely filed a change of your mailing address:

  • Alert your local Postal Inspector. If you cannot locate the number easily, call (800) 275-8777.
  • Ask the local Postmaster to forward to you any and all mail bearing your name.
Emotional Distress
  • Get emotional help if necessary. The emotional fallout resulting from identity theft can be tremendous. Counseling is commonly advised for victims. The Identity Theft Resource Center can also provide information on how to network with other victims and find support.
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