Identity theft

9.3 million American victims in the last 12 months

Warning signs that you may be a victim
  1. Credit inexplicably denied.
  2. Routine financial statements stop arriving in a timely manner.
  3. Creditors making phone calls on accounts you have never authorized.
  4. A new or renewed credit card is not received.
What to do if you are victimized

Step One
  • Contact fraud department for the three major credit bureaus:
    • Experian (TRW) 888-397-3742
    • Trans Union 800-680-7289
    • Equifax 800-525-6275
  • Contact Social Security Administration Fraud hotline 800-269-0271
  • Contact the Federal Trade Commission: 877-FTC-HELP, 877-ID-THEFT,
Step Two
  • Contact account issuer in question:
    • Ask for the fraud/security department of the compromised or fraudulent account issuer.
    • Notify them by phone and in writing.
    • Close all tampered or fraudulent accounts.
Step Three
  • Contact your local police department.
  • Notify the police department in the community where the ID theft occurred.
  • Obtain copies of all police reports made.
Step Four
  • Keep a detailed log of all contacts: location called names of persons you spoke to, their titles and callback number with extension.
  • Ask and write down what the procedures are for that entity. 
What can you do to reduce your risks
  1. Before providing personal identifiers, know how they will be used and will be shared.
  2. Know your billing cycles and contact creditors when bills fail to show up.
  3. Place outgoing mail in collection boxes or the US Post Office, not your home mail box.
  4. Only carry essential identification cards.
  5. Do not give personal information over the phone.
  6. Do not discard documents that contain personal identifiers or account information. Shred these documents.
  7. Order copies of your credit report annually.
  8. Review your Social Security earnings and benefits statements (800-722-1203).
  9. Before purchasing on-line, check to see if the site has a secure server to encrypt your transaction. Secure pages will begin with "https" rather than "http" and will often display a small locked lock on the browser window.
  10. You may receive an E-mail inquiry from what appears to be a legitimate business or financial institution (e.g. Ebay) requesting personal identifier information. This may not be legitimate. This is known as a "phishing scam".
If your wallet is stolen or lost

Make a list of what was in your wallet: driver's license, ATM and debit bank cards, credit cards, vehicle registration papers, social security card, library card, video store card, health insurance and prescription card, employee or student ID, military ID Card, Medicare card, green card, passport, long distance calling card, club cards, store cards, professional licenses, etc.

Priority One
- Do immediately:
  • Make a police report.
  • Notify three major credit reporting agencies.
  • Request a credit report at the same time.
  • Notify DMV that your driver's license and/or vehicle registration papers were stolen and request replacements.
  • Green card - notify Immigration and Naturalization (INS)
  • Passports - notify the U.S. State Department
  • Credit cards - notify the issuer, request new account numbers and replacement cards.
  • Notify your bank: checking, savings, ATM, debit cards, close accounts and open new accounts.
Priority Two - Within 48 hours:
  • Notify issuer of supermarket cash cards, long distance calling cards, library cards, auto insurance, military ID.
  • If Social Security card was included, notify Social Security Administration.
  • Follow-up on supermarket cards and club cards.
  • If birth certificate was taken, notify county of record.
  • Continue to notify all other card holders.
Internet and travel purchases

(Should I use my credit card or debit card?)
If your debit card is compromised, someone can clean out your checking account. Use your credit card. If something goes wrong you are protected by the Fair Credit Billing Act. You have the right to dispute charges and withhold payments during a creditor investigation. If it is determined that your credit was used without authorization, you are only responsible for the first $50 in charges. You are rarely asked to pay this charge.

Some companies such as VISA have the same protection policies for debit and credit card. Ask your card issuing companies for their policies.

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