Reporting identity theft
Part 3 of 3
PLYMOUTH — Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes today.
People are exposed to identity theft almost daily and are often unaware of their risk. Even in Marshall County, false IDs and stolen Social Security numbers are bought and sold.
Sometimes even with preventative measures in place, a person can still become a victim, and may not discover it until much damage has been done. If someone discovers that you are a victim, what should you do?
First, call your local police and insist on a police report. You will need a case incident number to report to your creditors. The officer will conduct an interview, filling out an Identity Crime Incident Detail Form. Make sure you keep copies of all paperwork. Then contact the Federal Trade Commission at www.consumer.gov/idtheft or call (877)-ID-THEFT and request an ID Theft Affidavit to fill out.
Virtually everyone who has access to your personal information should be contacted immediately, even if the information they have was not compromised or taken. Your bank and the credit card companies may be the most obvious of these, but even utility companies (including your cell phone provider), the BMV and the Social Security Administration should also be contacted. If you have investment accounts or loans with other companies, they also need to be contacted.
When contacting your creditors, close all accounts that might be compromised. Verify fraudulent accounts or transactions making sure to obtain times, dates, and locations of those transactions. Obtain copies of all fraudulent transactions. Open new accounts with new passwords, remembering the guidelines for what not to use as a password or a PIN. Also, contact the fraud department of the three major credit reporting bureaus to put a ‘Fraud Alert’ on your accounts. This will require creditors to notify you before opening or changing your accounts. Your creditors will also notify you if they suspect accounts are accessed again. The three main credit reporting bureaus are:
• Experian, 1-888-397-3742, P.O. Box 2104, Allen, Texas 75013; www.experian.com
• Equifax, 1-800-525-6285, P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, Georgia 30374; www.equifax.com
• Trans Union; 1-800-680-7289, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, Calif., 92834; www.tuc.com
Get confirmation from each of the companies or institutions that you have requested fraud alerts on your accounts.
Also contact the United States Postal Service if you suspect that your mail might have been involved.
Unfortunately, the risk of becoming a victim of identity theft cannot be eliminated. But with education and common sense you can reduce the potential for someone to use your personal information for their profit, without conscience or regard for the impact it could make on your life. Keeping accurate records, limiting access to those records, and prompt reporting of any unusual activity can help limit the damage a criminal can do if they do get access to your information. This can reduce your stress, aid law enforcement in the capture of the thief, and help in returning your life to normal as quickly as possible.