Invasion of the ID Snatchers
The following is courtesy of:
For Victims: What to Do?
It’s frightening to lose your wallet or discover that someone has used information about you for a fraudulent purpose. Don’t panic—help is available. You will need to remain calm, cool, and collected as you go through the process of resolving the problem.
Know that ID theft is a crime. The federal government and many states have enacted specific laws against ID theft.
You can get detailed advice by calling the Federal Trade Commission’s ID Theft Clearinghouse toll-free at 877-438-4338 or going to www.consumer.gov/idtheft. You can also provide information about your problem, which will help law enforcement agencies investigate and track ID theft. The FTC will send you a free booklet, “ID Theft: When Bad Things Happen To Your Good Name,” or you can get it online. There are other steps that you might want to take right away.
If you believe that someone is using your identity illegally, report the crime to a law enforcement agency. It isn’t always possible for agencies to investigate every case, but making an official “identity theft report” can help you solve problems resulting from the ID theft. The “identity theft report” must be a document that subjects the person filing it to criminal penalties for providing false information. This is intended to discourage people from filing phony reports to try to avoid paying legitimate debts, not to prevent legitimate ID theft victims from reporting the crimes. Report the crime to:
- Your local police;
- The police department where the theft occurred; or
- A state or federal agency, including the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
(Do not use a complaint to the FTC as an official identity theft report).
Know your payment rights. Under federal law, you are not responsible for more than $50.00 if someone uses your credit card without authorization, and most issuers will remove the charges completely if you report the problem as soon as you discover it. While your losses could be greater if someone uses your debit card, the card issuer may have a policy that offers you more protection than federal law provides. You can contest checks that have been used with your forged signature or unauthorized withdrawals from your bank account.
Respond quickly to debt collectors. If debt collectors contact you about accounts opened in your name or unauthorized charges made to your existing accounts, respond immediately in writing, keeping a copy of your letter. Explain why you don’t owe the money and enclose copies of any supporting documents, such as an official identity theft report. You have the right to ask the debt collector for the name of the business that is owed the debt and the amount owed. And you have the right to ask that business for copies of the credit applications or other documents relating to any transactions that you believe were made by the ID thief.
- Equifax, 800-525-6285, TDD 800-255-0056, www.equifax.com;
- Experian, 888-397-3742, TDD 800-972-0322, www.experian.com;
- TransUnion, 800-680-7289, TDD 877-553-7803, www.transunion.com.
Follow the instructions to dispute any accounts you didn’t open, charges you didn’t make, or other information that isn’t accurate. Be specific about any information that you believe is the result of the ID theft. You can permanently block that information from your credit files; you will be asked for a copy of your official identity theft report to do so. As with fraud alerts, you only need to report problems with your credit reports to one of the bureaus, and it will share that information with the other two (see contact information above).
Your state law may also entitle you to free credit reports. Ask your local consumer protection or state attorney general’s office. Any rights your state law gives you are in addition to your rights under federal law.