Today we place our personal data on Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, QVC, Ebay, Craigslist and hundreds of thousands of other sites. But even if we don’t shop or “play” online, we still throw out garbage containing personal documents, provide identification at the local stores, and purchase items using checks that contain sensitive information identifying who we are. The Federal Trade Commission estimates that as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year. If you have been a victim, you know how traumatic and disorienting the experience can be. If you suspect that you may be victim of identity theft, or have been notified by an agency or company with whom you have transacted business that your personal data has been compromised; there are some basic steps you need to take.
1. Review Credit Reports. The first step you should take is to review your three credit reports (Experian, Equifax and Transunion) at least annually. If you have knowledge your identity or accounts have been compromised, you need to take this step immediately. You can obtain a free copy of each report at the following site: AnnualCreditReport.com
Don’t be surprised if you cannot obtain all three during your first visit. The site is not easy to maneuver. You have to read the webpages carefully to make sure you are proceeding to your free credit reports. My beef with this site (and it is one of the better ones) as well as the other fraud protection sites, is that you’re constantly being solicited to purchase different monitoring and credit score products. Some of these products may be very good and beneficial to your needs, but they are distracting when making your request for your credit reports. Therefore you to be on guard to look for the “no thanks” and “continue” buttons.
If you suspect or have knowledge that your personal information has been compromised, I recommend that you check your credit reports periodically. Identity thieves sometimes hold a victim’s personal information for later use or is shared among a group of thieves at different times.
2. Fraud Alerts. The next step is to make a fraud alert. You can file a report with any of the three major credit reporting agencies either online, by calling the toll-free number, or in writing. The nice thing about filing the fraud alert is that you do not need to file with each of the agencies. When you file with one of the agencies, the other two are notified as well.
The initial 90 day fraud alert indicates to anyone requesting your credit file that you suspect you are a victim of fraud. When you or someone else attempts to open a credit account in your name, increase the credit limit on an existing account, or obtain a new card on an existing account, the lender must take steps to verify that you have authorized the request. If the creditor cannot verify this, the request should not be satisfied.
An extended fraud alert is similar to an initial 90 day alert, except that it lasts for 7 years, and to verify your request a creditor must contact you on the telephone number(s) you provide to the credit reporting agencies. To place an extended fraud alert, you are required to file a valid police report showing that you have been a victim of identity theft. Most police departments have procedures for filing identity theft complaints.
An active duty alert is available to persons on active military duty and is similar to an initial 90 day alert, except that it lasts 12 months and your name is removed from prescreened offers of credit or insurance for 2 years.
You can file a fraud alert with any of the any of the following:
TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289; ONLINE; Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790
Equifax: 1-800-525-6285; ONLINE; P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742); ONLINE; P.O. Box 9554, Allen, TX 75013
3. File a Police Report. As a necessary prerequisite to enforcing your rights under the Federal Credit Reporting Act, you need to file a police report. In the event that you come across a police department that does not take identity theft reports, the Federal Trade Commission recommends that you provide the police department this law enforcement letter and a copy of “Remedying the Effects of Identity Theft.”
4. Consider a Credit Report Freeze. If a security freeze law is available in your State, you may want to consider freezing your credit reports. Placing a security freeze on your credit reports limits the ability of third parties to access your reports. This helps prevent identity thieves from opening credit accounts in your name. Ohio has enacted a credit report security freeze law in 2008. See information on Ohio’s Security Freeze Law. Here is the information and links to the three Credit Reporting Agencies on how to freeze your credit reports: OAGBlog. Here are other States that have adopted Security Freeze Laws.
5. Close Compromised Accounts. Close any account that you know or suspect has been tampered with. In addition to filing an identity report with the local police department, you need to contact the company with whom you have the account and inform them that the account has been compromised. The FTC provides copies of sample letters you can use in notifying and disputing existing accounts, and for new accounts. It is recommended that you also make use of the FTC Theft Identity Affidavit.
6. File FTC Complaint. File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. Here’s a short video showing you how to file such a complaint.
Online FTC Complaint
For more information please contact me at: www.candito.com