Here is Another Common Scenario
An identity thief uses your personal information to obtain credit. They don’t pay the bills so a debt collector demands payment and places negative information on your credit reports. As a result, your credit score is lowered, making it difficult or impossible to obtain new credit yourself.
This guide provides victims of identity theft with instructions on how to regain your reputation and financial health and who to contact for more help. You must act quickly and assertively to minimize the damage.
1. Notify credit bureaus and establish fraud alerts. Immediately report the situation to the fraud department of the three credit reporting companies -- Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Placing the fraud alert means that your file will be flagged and that creditors will be required to call you before extending credit.
Here is their contact information:
Report fraud: Call (888) 766-0008 and write to address above.
TDD: (800) 255-0056
Allen TX, 75013
Report fraud: Call (888) EXPERIAN (888-397-3742) and write to address above.
TDD: Use relay to fraud number above.
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA, §605A) you can place an initial fraud alert for only 90 days. The credit bureaus will each mail you a notice of your rights as an identity theft victim. Once you receive them, request the following:
- a free copy of your credit report
- an extension of the fraud alert to seven years. You must have evidence of attempts to open fraudulent credit accounts and an identity theft report to get the seven year alert.
- that only the last four digits of your social security number appear on the credit report
In all communications with the credit bureaus, you will want to refer to the unique number assigned to your credit report and use certified, return receipt mail. Certified Return Receipt Mail shows proof that you mailed the letter as well as its receipt. Be sure to save all credit reports and other correspondence, along with the proof of mailing and delivery as part of your files.
Examine your credit reports carefully. Report fraudulent accounts and erroneous information in writing to both the credit bureaus and the credit issuers following the instructions provided with the credit reports. The FTC’s identity theft guide provides a sample letter to send to the credit bureaus requesting that fraudulent accounts be blocked. www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/credit/idtheft.htm#Resolving
After you notify the credit bureaus about the fraudulent accounts, the bureau must block that information from future reports. The bureau must also notify the credit grantor of the fraudulent account. (FCRA, §605B) Ask the credit bureaus for names and phone numbers of credit grantors with whom fraudulent accounts have been opened if this information is not included on the credit report. In addition, instruct the credit bureaus in writing to remove inquiries that have been generated due to the fraudulent access.
1a. Monitor your credit reports .
Under FACTA, The credit bureaus must provide you with free copies of your credit reports once per year. This is in addition to the free reports you can order when you place fraud alerts on your three credit reports. Once you have received your free credit reports as a part of the fraud-alert process, follow up in a few months by taking advantage of your free FACTA copy.
For more on free credit reports, see www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/credit/freereports.htm and www.annualcreditreport.com.
In Colorado, Georgia , Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Vermont, whether a victim or not, you can receive one free credit report each year under state law, over and above the free FACTA report you can receive yearly under federal law.
1b. Security freeze. You can request that the credit bureaus "freeze" your credit reports. That way, credit issuers may only access your reports with your permission.. This stops thieves from opening up new credit in your name. In most states, security freezes are available at no charge to identity theft victims and for a relatively small fee for non-victims.
- For state-by-state information on security freezes, visit this Consumers Union web page: www.consumersunion.org/campaigns//learn_more/003484indiv.html .
2. Law enforcement. Report the crime to your local police or sheriff's department right away. You might also need to report it to police department(s) where the crime occurred if it's somewhere other than where you live. Give them as much documented evidence as possible. Make sure the police report lists the fraudulent accounts . Get a copy of the report, which is called an "identity theft report" under the FCRA. Keep the phone number of your investigator handy and give it to creditors and others who require verification of your case. Credit card companies and banks may require you to show the report in order to verify the crime.
FTC regulations define an "identity theft report" to include a report made to a local, state, or federal law enforcement agency. If your local police department refuses to file a report and your situation involves fraudulent use of the
3. Federal Trade Commission. Report the crime to the FTC. Include your police report number. Although the FTC does not itself investigate identity theft cases, they share such information with investigators nationwide who are fighting identity theft.
- Call the FTC's Identity Theft Hotline: (877) IDTHEFT (877-438-4338)
- Or use its online identity theft complaint form: www.consumer.gov/idtheft
- Or write: FTC Identity Theft Clearinghouse,
600 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W., Washington, DC 20580.
- The FTC's uniform fraud affidavit form is available at www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/credit/affidavit.pdf
4. What to do with new credit accounts opened by the imposter. If your credit report shows that the imposter has opened new accounts in your name, contact those creditors immediately by telephone and in writing. Recent amendments to the FCRA (§623(6)(B)) allow you to prevent businesses from reporting fraudulent accounts to the credit bureaus. The FTC provides a sample dispute letter at www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/credit/idtheft.htm#Resolving (scroll down).
Creditors will likely ask you to fill out fraud affidavits. The FTC provides a uniform affidavit form that most creditors accept, www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/credit/affidavit.pdf . No law requires affidavits to be notarized at your own expense. You may choose to substitute witness signatures for notarization if creditors require verification of your signature.
Ask the credit grantors in writing to furnish you and your investigating law enforcement agency with copies of the documentation, such as the fraudulent application and transaction records.
You must provide a copy of the FTC affidavit or another affidavit acceptable to the business, plus government-issued identification, and a copy of an "identity theft report" (police report) in order to obtain the documents created by the imposter. The business must provide copies of these records to the victim within 30 days of the victim's request at no charge. The law also allows the victim to authorize a law enforcement investigator to get access to these records.
When you have resolved the fraudulent account with the creditor, ask for a letter stating that the company has closed the disputed account and has discharged the debts. Keep this letter in your files. You may need it if the account reappears on your credit report.
You must also notify the credit bureaus about the fraudulent accounts. Instructions are provided in Section 1 above.
5. Handling problems with your existing credit or debit accounts. If your existing credit or debit accounts have been used fraudulently, report it in writing immediately to the credit card company. Request replacement cards with new account numbers. Do this by phone and in writing.
6. Debt collectors. If debt collectors try to get you to pay the unpaid bills on fraudulent accounts, request that they provide you with both their name and address as well as the identity of the original creditor. They have to do this within 30 days of your written request. This information is normally printed in their initial letter to you. If they contact you by telephone, ask for this information in writing. Inform them of the identity theft and send them a copy of the identity theft report. Under the FCRA, a debt collector must notify the creditor that the debt may be a result of identity theft.
7. Check and banking fraud. If you have had checks stolen or bank accounts set up fraudulently, ask your bank to report it to ChexSystems, a consumer reporting agency that compiles reports on checking accounts. Also, place a security alert on your file (see web address below). Your bank should be able to provide you with a fraud affidavit. Put "stop payments" on any outstanding checks that you are unsure about. Close your checking account and other affected accounts and obtain new account numbers.
- Phone: (800) 428-9623. Fax: (602) 659-2197
- Web: https://www.consumerdebit.com/consumerinfo/us/en/index.htm
- To place a security alert on your ChexSystems report: https://www.consumerdebit.com/consumerinfo/us/en/chexsystems/theftaffidavit/index.htm Write: ChexSystems Inc., Attn: Consumer Relations,
7805 Hudson Rd., Suite 100, Woodbury, MN 55125.
If your own checks are rejected at stores where you shop, contact the check verification company that the merchant uses. The major ones are listed here.
Fidelity National Information Services
International Check Services
Under a new federal law, you now have a right to obtain any reports that these companies compile about you. For ChexSystems and any of the check verification companies listed here that you have had to contact as a result of your identity theft situation, we recommend that you request a copy of your file once a year. Make sure your file has been corrected. If not, you will find it difficult to open new bank accounts and/or write checks. Visit the web sites listed above to learn how to order your free annual reports.
ATM and debit card transactions are subject to the Electronic Fund Transfer Act. (15 USC §1693) Even if you are a victim of identity theft, your liability for charges can increase the longer the crime goes unreported. For more on EFTA, see the Federal Reserve Board's guide, www.federalreserve.gov/pubs/consumerhdbk/electronic.htm. Also read the FTC's guide on electronic banking, www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/credit/elbank.htm
9. Brokerage accounts. If an identity thief targets your brokerage account, refer to your account agreement for information on what to do. Immediately report the incident to the brokerage company and notify the Securities and Exchange Commission, www.sec.gov . Also notify the National Association of Securities Dealers, www.nasd.org. To protect against fraud, put a password on each of your investment accounts.
10. Fraud involving
11. Secret Service. The U.S. Secret Service also has jurisdiction over financial fraud. But, based on U.S. Attorney guidelines, it usually does not investigate individual cases unless the dollar amount is high or you are one of many victims of a fraud ring.
12. Social Security number (SSN) misuse. The Social Security Administration (SSA) does not provide assistance to identity theft victims. But be sure to contact the SSA Inspector General to report Social Security benefit fraud, employment fraud, or welfare fraud.
- Social Security Administration online complaint form: www.socialsecurity.gov/oig
- SSA fraud hotline: (800) 269-0271
- By mail: SSA Fraud Hotline,
P.O. Box 17768, Baltimore, MD 21235
If your SSN card has been stolen or lost, order a replacement. Complete the SSA's application available at www.socialsecurity.gov/online/ss-5.html or by calling the SSA at (800) 772-1213, or by visiting your local SSA office. You will need to provide the required documentation such as birth certificate and government ID at your local SSA office to get a replacement card.
- U.S. Dept. of State, Passport Services, Consular Lost/Stolen Passport Section, 1111 19th St., NW, Suite 500, Washington, DC 20036.
- Website: www.travel.state.gov/passport/lost/lost_849.html
14. Phone service. Identity thieves often establish fraudulent cell phone accounts, with monthly bills going unpaid. The imposter might also have opened local and long distance telephone accounts. If the imposter has obtained phone account(s) in your name, contact the phone company for information on how to report the situation. The steps that you take to clear your name with both the phone company and credit bureaus are much the same as with credit card accounts described above in steps one and three. In
If your calling card has been stolen or there are fraudulent charges, cancel it and open a new account. For your own phone accounts, add a password that must be used any time your local, cell phone, and long distance accounts are changed.
15. Student loans. If an identity thief has obtained a student loan in your name, report it in writing to the school that opened the loan. Request that the account be closed. Also report it to the U.S. Dept. of Education:
Dept. of Education Inspector General's Hotline: (800) MISUSED (800-647-8733) U.S.
- Write: Office of
Dept. of Education, Inspector General, U.S. 400 Maryland Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20202-1510.
- Web: www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/oig/hotline.html?src=rt
16. Driver's license number misuse. You may need to change your driver's license number if someone is using yours as ID on bad checks or for other types of fraud. Call the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to see if another license was issued in your name. Put a fraud alert on your license if your state's DMV provides a fraud alert process. Go to your local DMV to request a new number. Fill out the DMV's complaint form to begin the investigation process. Send supporting documents with the completed form to the nearest DMV investigation office.
17. Identity theft involving family members and others you know. If a deceased relative's information is being used to perpetrate identity theft, or if you personally know the identity thief, additional information about how to address these situations is available in other fact sheets. Visit the
- When you know the perpetrator (family member, acquaintance), www.idtheftcenter.org/vg115.shtml
- ID theft of the deceased, www.idtheftcenter.org/vg117.shtml
- Children and ID theft, www.idtheftcenter.org/vg120b.shtml
18. Victim statements. If the imposter is apprehended by law enforcement and stands trial and/or is sentenced, write a victim impact letter to the judge handling the case. Contact the victim-witness assistance program in your area for further information on how to make your voice heard in the legal proceedings
19. False civil and criminal judgments. Sometimes victims of identity theft are wrongfully accused of crimes that were committed by the imposter. If you are wrongfully arrested or prosecuted for criminal charges, contact the police department and the court in the jurisdiction of the arrest. Also contact your state's Department of Justice and the FBI to ask how to clear your name. If a civil judgment is entered in your name for your imposter's actions, contact the court where the judgment was entered and report that you are a victim of identity theft.
20. Legal help. You may want to consult an attorney to determine legal action to take against creditors, credit bureaus, and/or debt collectors if they are not cooperative in removing fraudulent entries from your credit report or if negligence is a factor.
21. Keep good records. In dealing with the authorities and financial companies, keep a log of all conversations, including dates, names, and phone numbers. Note the time you spent and any expenses incurred in case you are able to seek restitution in a later judgment or conviction against the thief. You may be able to obtain tax deductions for theft-related expenses (26 U.S.C. §165(e) -- consult your accountant). Confirm all conversations in writing. Send correspondence using certified mail with return receipt requested. Keep copies of all letters and documents.
Visit these web sites for tips on organizing your case:
- FTC's guide Take Charge, www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/credit/idtheft.htm#Identity
, www.idtheftcenter.org/vg106.shtml Identity Theft Resource Center
22. Don't give in. Do not pay any bill or portion of a bill that is a result of fraud. Do not cover any checks that were written or cashed fraudulently. Do not file for bankruptcy. Your credit rating should not be permanently affected. No legal action should be taken against you. If any merchant, financial company or collection agency suggests otherwise, restate your willingness to cooperate, but don't allow yourself to be coerced into paying fraudulent bills. Report such attempts to government regulators immediately.
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 bureaus.
Order your free credit report
Whether or not you are a victim of identity theft, take advantage of your free annual credit reports, now a requirement of federal law.
- Phone: (877) 322-8228
- Web: www.annualcreditreport.com
- FTC's guide: www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/credit/freereports.htm
Opt out of pre-approved offers of credit for all three credit bureaus
- Call (888) 5OPTOUT (888-567-8688). You may choose a five-year opt-out period or permanent opt-out status.
- Or opt-out online, www.optoutprescreen.com
Remove your name from mail marketing lists (Direct Marketing Association)
- Write: Mail Preference Service,
P.O. Box 282, Carmel, NY 10512. Include check or money order for $1.
- Web: www.dmaconsumers.org/cgi/offmailinglist. Online opt-out program costs $1 by credit card.
Remove your phone number(s) from telemarketing lists
- Phone the FTC’s Do Not Call Registry: (888) 382-1222
- Online registration: www.donotcall.gov
Order your earnings report from the Social Security Administration
- Order your Personal Earnings and Benefits Estimate Statement The SSA automatically mails it to individuals three months before the birthday each year. www.ssa.gov/online/ssa-7004.html
- For information on reporting fraud to the SSA, read tip 12 above.
Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
- Read its guide, Take Charge: Fighting Back Against Identity Theft, www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/credit/idtheft.htm.
- Online information and complaint form: www.consumer.gov/idtheft
- FTC uniform fraud affidavit form: www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/credit/affidavit.pdf
- Identity Theft Hotline: (877) IDTHEFT (877-438-4338)
- Write: FTC Identity Theft Clearinghouse,
600 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W., Washington, DC 20580
Federal Agencies and Technology Industry
- For tips on online safety, visit www.onguardonline.gov
- Guides for victims, www.idtheftcenter.org (Click on Victim Resources.)
- Phone: (858) 693-7935
- Web: www.idtheftcenter.org
- E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
P.O. Box 26833, San Diego, CA 92196
Identity Theft Survival Guide
- R.M. Tracy., Former FBI Agent and author of Identity Theft Survival Guide, A Step By Step Guide To Reclaiming Your Life.
- Web: www.privacytrustgroup.com
- Phone: (877) 648-0119