If you do determine that you have become a victim of identity theft, it can feel overwhelming. You may not have much idea of what damage they have done, or what steps you need to take to stop them and start regaining your good financial standing. Of course, you can always turn to our office as a resource. I hope you will also choose to file this letter so that you can pull it out if you ever need it (although I hope you never do!). The FTC website (www.ftc.gov/idtheft) has comprehensive information as well.
The key is to take action as fast as possible. Below, we have provided you with a step-by-step action list that will help you (or someone you know) resolve issues relating to identity theft in an efficient and hopefully less costly manner.
Make a list of who you need to contact. Start a file where you can keep all your paperwork together in one easily accessible place, and keep this file even after you believe all your disputes have been settled. Whenever you make phone calls, write down the date and time and the name of the person you talked to, along with any notes from the call, and keep these notes in your file.
Place an initial fraud alert on your credit reports.
This alert, which will stay active for 90 days, will ensure that creditors must verify your identity before making any changes to your accounts or opening new accounts. It is only necessary to call one of the three consumer reporting companies. Their toll-free numbers are:
When you place a fraud alert, you can get a free copy of your credit report regardless of how long it’s been since you last requested a free report. Check it carefully for any companies you don’t recognize, accounts you didn’t open or unknown charges on your accounts. Remember to check your own name, SSN, and employer also, as thieves will sometimes change basic information to suit their own purposes.
After you’ve completed the rest of the steps, you can go back and get an extended alert on your credit report. An extended alert stays active for seven years. To get this, you will need to provide a copy of an identity theft report. You will also receive two free credit reports during the first year after placing the extended alert, and the consumer reporting companies will automatically remove your name from all marketing lists for pre-screened credit offers for five years (unless you ask for your name to be put back on before then).
Close any account that may have been tampered with.
Close any account that may have been tampered with or opened without your knowledge. Ask to speak with someone in the security or fraud department at each company or institution. Ask for fraud dispute forms to dispute any charges made by an identity thief. If they don’t have special forms, send a letter to the address given for “billing inquiries.” If new accounts have been opened in your name, ask if the company accepts the ID Theft Affidavit. (Instructions for completing an ID Theft Affidavit can be found at www.ftc.gov/idtheft.) If not, use their fraud dispute forms or send a letter. Be aggressive and persistent. If someone is not giving you the help or the answers you need, ask to speak to a supervisor.
Follow up any phone calls in writing, especially to banks and credit card companies, and use certified mail, return receipt requested, to keep a record of what the company received from you and when. Keep copies of all correspondence in your file.
Once you have resolved any disputed charges or accounts with a company, ask them to put it in writing for you to confirm that the disputes have been settled. This letter may prove very helpful if any error crops up later on down the road relating to the fraudulent debt or accounts.
Take precautions with new accounts.
When opening new accounts, use a password that is not obvious. Avoid using your mother’s maiden name, your birth date, a pet’s name or other information that is easily available.
File appropriate reports and complaints.
Whenever you have a problem with identity theft, please file a police report (in person, if possible) and provide as much information as you can. Get a copy of it for your file.
File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (www.ftc.gov/idtheft or call 1-877-438-4338) to give law enforcement more information to help fight identity theft nationwide.
To file an identity theft report with the consumer credit reporting agencies in order to get an extended fraud alert put on your credit report, you will need to submit a copy of your police report or report to the FTC, along with any other requested proof of your identity.
If you need additional information about specific problems related to identity theft, such as dealing with stolen ATM cards, credit cards, fraudulent checks, etc., the Federal Trade Commission website has an enormous amount of detailed information. To learn more about Identity Theft and how to deter, detect and defend against it, visit their site at www.ftc.gov/idtheft or write to:
Consumer Response Center, Federal Trade Commision,
600 Pennsylvania Ave, NW H-30, Washington D.C. 20580
Source: MD Producer