Identity theft occurs when someone obtains a person’s identifying information, such as name, address, date of birth, social security number or mother’s maiden name. Using this information illegally, an imposter can open new credit card accounts, drain your bank accounts, purchase automobiles, apply for loans, open utility services, and on and on.
No matter how cautious you are, you cannot guarantee that a criminal will not obtain your information. The following steps will tell you what the warning signs are, how to protect yourself, what to do if you become a victim, and the resources you will need. As always, contact the Greenfield Police Department, 414-761-5300, with questions.
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 the 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 (761-5300). Provide them with as much documentation as possible. Make sure that the accounts are listed on the police report. Also, get a copy of the police report. Credit card companies, banks and credit reporting agencies may require you to show a police report 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.
Credit Reporting Agencies
Contact the fraud units of the 3 credit reporting agencies:
Equifax - 800-685-1111
Experian - 888-397-3742
Trans Union - 800-916-8800
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 1, 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 3 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 have trouble with falsified accounts, contact your state Public Utility Commission.