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Chapter 3. DANGER ON THE COMPUTER AND WH... > What to Do If You Are a Victim of Id...

What to Do If You Are a Victim of Identity Theft

  1. Put a fraud alert on your credit report. Under new federal law, fraud alerts take on an increased importance. If you think that you might be the victim of identity theft, you can have a fraud alert placed upon your credit report at the credit reporting agencies. The alert stays on your report for up to ninety days but can be extended for up to seven years. When a fraud alert has been put on your credit report, you are entitled to a second free credit report during that year in order to monitor your credit for further irregularities. In the past, people placing a fraud alert on their credit reports found that to be effective, they had to call each of the three major credit reporting agencies to have fraud alerts independently placed on each company's record. Now under FACT (the federal Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act), all you need to do is call one of the credit reporting agencies and they are required to notify the other two to place the fraud alert on your file.

  2. Go to the Federal Trade Commission Web site or the back of this book to obtain the FTC's ID Theft Affidavit and use it to report the crime.

  3. Contact all your creditors by phone and then follow up with a letter sent by certified mail, return receipt requested. See Chapter 15, “Form Letters,” for a sample. Get new credit cards with new account numbers. Change your PIN number and your passwords.

  4. Close tainted accounts. When opening new accounts with these creditors, use a password that is not easily connected with you. A word to the wise: Do not use your mother's maiden name, or to be particularly safe, do not even use my mother's maiden name. People think that their mother's maiden name is difficult to find. It is not. It is on your birth certificate, a public record.

  5. When you close accounts, make sure that the accounts are designated as being closed at the customer's request due to theft so that when information is transmitted to the credit reporting bureaus, it is clear that the problems are not of your doing.

  6. Ask your creditors to notify each of the credit reporting agencies to remove erroneous and fraudulent information from your file.

  7. If your checks are stolen, promptly notify your bank and have the account closed immediately. If your checking account is accessed by checks with forged signatures, you obviously have not authorized the withdrawals and should not be held responsible for money stolen from your account. However, if you neglect to monitor your account and fail to promptly notify your bank when there is an irregularity in your account or your checks are lost or stolen, you may be held partially responsible for your losses. It is not even necessary to have your checks physically stolen for you to become a victim. An identity thief armed with your name, checking account number, and bank routing information can use one of a number of inexpensive computer software programs to create checks for your account.

  8. Contact the various check verification companies and ask that they, in turn, contact retailers who use their services telling them not to accept checks from your accounts that have been accessed by identity thieves. Check verification services are companies that maintain databases of bad check writers. Retailers using their services contact the verification service's database before accepting checks. Among the companies that do check verification are CellCharge, CheckCare, and CrossCheck.

  9. File a report with the police both where the fraud occurred and where you live. You may find police departments reluctant to accept your report, sometimes for technical legal jurisdictional reasons. Politely insist that they at least accept your report. Remind them that credit bureaus will prevent fraudulent accounts from appearing on your credit report if you can provide a police report. Give the police officer taking the report as much documentation as you have to support your claim, including the ID Theft Affidavit approved by the Federal Trade Commission that appears later in this book. When a police report has been filed, send a copy of it to each of the three major credit-reporting agencies.

  10. Be proactive. Contact your creditors where you have tainted accounts and get a written statement from each of them indicating that the account accessed by an identity theft has been closed and that the charges made to the accounts are fraudulent. Request that they initiate a fraud investigation. Find out what you are required to do to advance the investigation, such as providing them with a police report. A sample letter to your creditor requesting such a statement from your creditors is included in Chapter 15. These letters can be very helpful, particularly if the credit reporting bureaus mistakenly resubmit the fraudulent charges on your credit report. Remember to get a written copy of your creditor's completed investigation.

  11. Send copies of your creditors' completed investigations to each of the three credit reporting agencies. Ask them to send you a copy of your updated credit report in order to confirm that any erroneous and fraudulent information has been removed from your file.

  12. If fraudulent charges do appear on your credit report, notify the credit reporting bureaus in writing that you dispute the information and request that such information be removed from your file. A sample letter is included in Chapter 15.



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