What To Do If You're an ID Theft Victim
Identity theft and identity fraud are two of the fastest growing crimes in the United States. These crimes occur when someone uses a person's identifying information, such as a driver license, birth date, and/or social security card number, without authority, to commit fraud.
If you think that you have been a victim of identity theft or another fraudulent transaction, please take these steps immediately:
1. Contact Credit Bureaus
Alert one of the major credit bureaus immediately to set an initial fraud alert on your credit report. This way, no one will be able to open an account in your name without you verifying it first.
Get a free copy of your credit report from all of the three Credit Bureaus and review those reports for evidence of accounts you didn't open. Fraud unit contacts are:
P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
Experian 888-397-3742 P.O. Box 9532, Allen, TX 75013
P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790
2. File a Complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
File a complaint with the FTC and create an ID Theft Affidavit online or call 1-877-438-4338 for more information.
3. Close Accounts
Close accounts--including Checking Accounts and Visa® Debit/ATM cards--that have been tampered with or used fraudulently. Contact all financial institutions and lenders, credit card issuers, utility companies, and the Social Security Administration to notify them of the fraud. Follow up each conversation with a letter. Contact Us immediately to close your accounts or to report suspicious activities.
4. Law Enforcement
File a report with law enforcement and insist on getting a copy of the report or the report number.
For detailed instructions what to do, download the FTC brochure: "Taking Charge: What To Do If Your Identity Is Stolen."
How To Protect Your Identity
It only takes a few seconds to become a victim of financial fraud. But it often takes months to recover.
Armed with discarded credit card receipts, checks, or deposit slips, today's crooks are making unauthorized transactions from victims' accounts, and even opening new--fraudulent--credit card and checking accounts.
There are steps you can take to prevent your identity from theft.
- Examine all your financial statements. Promptly reconcile your monthly share draft account statement. Save check stubs and credit, debit, and ATM receipts. Report discrepancies between your records and monthly statements to the appropriate company. Check credit bureau reports at least once a year.
- Limit the paper trail. Store receipts and checkbook carbons in a safe place. Or rip them up, especially areas where account numbers are visible. Destroy blank checks from closed-out accounts and expired or unused credit cards. And tear up any credit card receipt carbons.
- Guard your purse or wallet. Thieves often target unoccupied vehicles, unlocked office drawers, and health club locker rooms.
- Protect your personal identification number (PIN). Never keep your ATM PIN in the same place as your card.
- Beware of phone scams. Never give your PIN or any other personal financial information to an unknown caller.
- Check your mail. If you haven't received mail for a few days, you may be the victim of mail diversion fraud. This scam involves a crook forging an individual's signature on a change-of-address form to divert your mail and obtain financial information. If you suspect your address has been changed without your permission, contact the post office.
- Track financial statements. Find out when financial statements and plastic cards are due to arrive. If they're late, contact us or appropriate issuer.
- Protect yourself online. New technology allows online vendors to assure customers reasonable security from online theft. If you doubt the security of the vendor, order the items over the telephone.
- Visit the FTC identity theft Website for more in-depth information on how to keep your personal information secure.