Identity Theft

What is Identity Theft?

Identity theft involves acquiring key pieces of someone's identifying information, such as name, address, date of birth, social security number and mothers maiden name, in order to impersonate them. This information enables the identity thief to commit numerous forms of fraud which include, but are not limited to, taking over the victims financial accounts, opening new bank accounts, purchasing automobiles, applying for loans, credit cards and social security benefits, renting apartments and establishing services with utility and telephone companies. 

What to do if you become a victim:

  • Set up a folder to keep detailed history of this crime. 
  • Keep a log of all your contacts and make copies of all documents. 
  • Contract all creditors by phone and in writing to inform them of the problem. 
  • Notify the United States Postal inspector if your mail has been stolen or tampered with.
  • You can reach them online at:  
  • Contact the Federal Trade Commission to report the problem. The F.T.C. is the federal clearinghouse for complaints by victims of identity theft. The F.T.C. helps victims by providing information to help resolve financial and other problems that could result from identity theft. Their hotline telephone number is 1-877-IDTHEFT (438-4338). 
  • Call each of the credit bureaus fraud units to report identity theft. Ask to have a Fraud Alert/Victim Impact statement placed in your credit file asking that creditors call you before opening any new accounts.

Credit Bureaus:

  • Equifax
    P.O. Box 74021
    Atlanta, GA. 30374-0241
    To order your report, call 1-800-685-1111
    To report fraud, call 1-800-525-6285
  • Experian
    P.O. Box 949
    Allen, TX. 75013-0949
    To order your report, call 1-888-397-3742
    To report fraud, call 1-888-397-3742
  • Trans Union
    P.O. Box 390
    Springfield, PA. 19064-0390 
    To order your report, call 1-800-916-8800
    To report fraud, call 1-800-680-7289

Alert your banks to flag your accounts and contact you to confirm any unusual activity. Request an immediate change of P.I.N. or a new password.

If you have checks stolen or bank accounts set up fraudulently, report it to the following companies:

  • National Check Fraud Service
  • SCAN
  • TeleCheck
    1-800-710-9898 or 927-0188 
  • CheckRite
  • CrossCheck
  • Equifax Check Systems
  • International Check Services
  • Contact the Social Security Administrations Fraud Hotline at 1-800-269-0271. 
  • Contact the state office of the Department of Motor Vehicles to see if another driver license was issued in your name. If so, request a new license number and fill out D.M.V.'s complaint form to begin the fraud investigation process. 
  • Obtain description of suspect (if known). 
  • Obtain witness information. 
  • Attach all supporting documents that support a financial loss.

Preventative Actions

  • Promptly remove mail from your mailbox after delivery. 
  • Deposit outgoing mail in post office collection mailboxes or at your local post office. Do not leave mail in unsecured mail boxes or receptacles. 
  • NEVER give personal information over the telephone, such as your social security number, date of birth, mothers maiden name, credit card number, or bank P.I.N. code, unless you initiated the call. Protect this information and release it only when absolutely necessary. 
  • Shred pre-approved credit applications, credit card receipts, bills and other financial information you don't want before discarding them in the trash or recycling bin. 
  • Empty your wallet of extra credit cards and I.D., or better yet, cancel the ones you do not use and maintain a list of the ones you do. 
  • Order your credit report from the three credit reporting bureaus once a year to check for fraudulent activity or other discrepancies. 
  • NEVER leave receipts at bank machines, bank counters, trash receptacles, or unattended gasoline pumps. Keep track of all your paperwork. 
  • Memorize your social security number and all of your passwords. Do not record them on any cards or on anything in your wallet or purse. 
  • Sign all new credit cards upon request. 
  • Save all credit card receipts and match them against your monthly bills. 
  • Be conscious of normal receipt of routine financial statements. Contact the sender if they are not received in the mail. 
  • Notify your credit card companies and financial institutions in advance of any change of address or phone number. 
  • NEVER loan your credit cards out to anyone else. 
  • NEVER put your credit card or any other financial account number on a postcard on the outside of an envelope. 
  • If you applied for a new credit card and it hasn't arrived in a timely manner, call the bank or credit card company involved. 
  • Report all lost or stolen credit cards immediately. 
  • Closely monitor expiration dates on your credit cards. Contact the credit card issuer if replacement cards are not received prior to the expiration dates. 
  • Beware of mail or telephone solicitations disguised as promotions offering instant prizes or awards designed solely to obtain your personal information or credit card numbers.

Internet & Online Services

Use caution when disclosing checking account numbers, credit card numbers or other personal financial data at any web site or online service location unless you receive a secured authentication key from your provider.

When you subscribe to an online service, you may be asked to give credit card information. When you enter any interactive service site, beware of con artists who may ask you to confirm your enrollment service by disclosing passwords or the credit card account number used to subscribe. DON'T GIVE THEM OUT!

Some Good Advice From a Web Viewer:

Place the contents of your wallet on a photocopy machine, do both sides of each license, credit card, etc.
You will know what you had in your wallet and all of the account numbers and phone numbers to call and cancel. Keep the photocopy in a safe place. A corporate attorney sent this out to the employees in his company. I pass it along, for your information.

We've all heard horror stories about fraud that's committed in your
name,address, SS#, credit, etc. Unfortunately I (the author of this piece
who happens to be an attorney) have first hand knowledge, because my wallet was stolen last month and within a week the thieve(s) ordered an expensive monthly cell phone package, applied for a VISA credit card, had a credit line approved to buy a Gateway computer, received a PIN number from DMV to change my driving record information online and more.

But here's some critical information to limit the damage in case this happens to you or someone you know. As everyone always advises, cancel your credit cards immediately, but the key is having the toll free numbers and your card numbers handy so you know whom to call. Keep those where you can find them easily. File a police report immediately in the jurisdiction where it was stolen, this proves to credit providers you were diligent,
and is a first step to an investigation.

But here's what is perhaps most important: (I never ever thought to do this)
Call the three national credit reporting organizations immediately to place a fraud alert on your name and SS#. I had never heard of doing that until advised by a bank that called to tell me an application for credit was made over
the Internet in my name. The alert means any company that checks your credit knows your information was stolen and they have to contact you by phone to authorize new credit. By the time I was advised to do this, almost 2 weeks after the theft, all the damage had been done.

There are records of all the credit checks initiated by the thieves' purchases, none of which I knew about before placing the alert. Since then, no additional damage has been done, and the thieves threw my wallet away this weekend (someone turned it in). It seems to have stopped them in their tracks.