What is Identity Theft?
Identity theft is when someone illegally obtains a person's identifying information, such as name, address, date of birth, social security number or mother's maiden name. Armed with this information, an imposter can open new credit card accounts, drain your bank accounts, purchase automobiles, apply for loans, open utility services and many other services.
How To Protect Yourself:
What to do if you have become a victim:
Despite your best efforts to protect yourself, you have become a victim. Now what? The following steps should be taken immediately and at the same time to best insure your protection.
In the process of resolving the theft of your identity, be sure to keep records of all correspondence with the creditors and government agencies you contact. Include the date and name of contact. Follow up all telephone contacts with a letter and keep a copy.
Notify all creditors and financial institutions in writing and by phone that your name and accounts have been used without your permission. If an existing account has been stolen, ask the creditor or bank to issue you new cards, checks and account numbers. Carefully monitor your account activity on your statements. Report fraudulent activity to the issuing company immediately. The Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) is a federal law that limits a consumer's responsibility for fraudulent charges to $50.
Local Law Enforcement
Immediately report the crime to local police. Provide them with as much documentation as possible. Make sure that the accounts are listed on the police report. Also, get the police report incident number. Credit card companies, banks and credit reporting agencies may require you to provide an incident report number to support your claim that a crime was committed.
Federal Law Enforcement
Report the crime to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC collects complaints about identity theft from consumers and stores them in a secure online database called the Consumer Sentinel that is available to law enforcement agencies worldwide. The FTC provides information on ways to resolve problems resulting from identity theft and refers individuals to various private and government agencies for further action.
Federal Trade Commission
Consumer Response Center
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20580
The Credit Reporting Agencies
Contact the fraud units of the three credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian and Trans Union. Ask them to place a fraud alert on your credit report to help prevent new fraudulent accounts from being opened. Keep track of when it expires so you can ask for another one if necessary. However, not all creditors check your credit report before issuing a new account. As an ID fraud victim, you are entitled to a free copy of your credit report. Also, ask the agencies for a copy of your credit report every three months once you have become a victim. This can help determine how many and which accounts listed are fraudulent. You can also identify the existing accounts that have been stolen.
Ask utility companies (local and long distance telephone service providers, gas, electric and water companies) to watch out for anyone ordering services in your name. If someone has ordered services in your name, cancel those accounts. If you are having trouble with falsified accounts, contact your state Public Utility Commission.
United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS)
The USPIS is a federal law enforcement agency that investigates cases of identity theft. The agency has primary jurisdiction in matters involving the integrity of the U.S. mail.
U.S. Postal Inspection Service
475 L’Enfant Plaza
Washington, DC 20260
United States Secret Service (USSS)
The USSS is a federal agency that investigates financial crimes. Generally, the USSS will intervene only when the dollar amount of the crime is high. However, they should still be notified in case it is part of a larger fraud ring.
U.S. Secret Service
Contact your local field office.
Social Security Administration (SSA)
If you detect fraudulent use of your social security number, report it to the SSA. The SSA does not generally take action unless there is a high dollar amount, workplace impersonation or crimes committed in your name. They will only change your SSN if you fit their fraud victim criteria.
Social Security Administration
6401 Security Boulevard
Baltimore, MD 21235
1-800-269-0271 (fraud hotline)
Call For Action, Inc. Call For Action, Inc. is an international network of consumer hotlines. CFA volunteers provide assistance and mediate cases on behalf of consumers and small businesses. For the office nearest you, refer to the back of the brochure. For more information on identity theft visit www.callforaction.org.
Additional steps to take: