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August 2001 IBEW Journal
How Can I Minimize My Risk?

What is Identity Theft

Is Someone Cloning Your Identity?

Ive Been Robbed!

Even though youve been as cautious with your information as possible, one day you discover someone is using your name fraudulently. What do you do? Who do you contact? How can you restore your credit and good name?

Take immediate action, and keep records of your conversations and correspondence. What you need to do depends on your circumstances and what the identity thief has been doing with your identity. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommends three basic actions that are appropriate in almost every case.

First: Contact the fraud departments of each of the three major credit bureaus. Tell them you are a victim of identity theft, and request that they place a fraud alert in your file and a statement asking that creditors contact you before opening any new accounts or changing your existing accounts. Also ask for copies of your credit reports, which are free if your report is inaccurate due to fraud. And report the identity theft to the FTC at its hotline, 1-877-438-4338.

Second: Contact the creditors for any accounts that the identity thief has tampered with or opened fraudulently. Creditors may include credit card companies, phone companies and other utilities, banks, and other lenders. Ask to speak with someone in the creditors security or fraud department, and follow your phone conversation with a letter. Providing a written notice to each creditor is important, because that is the procedure that the Fair Credit Billing Act requires for resolving errors on credit card billing statements. Also, immediately close accounts that have been tampered with; and open new ones with new personal identification numbers and passwords.

Third: Report the identity theft to your local police or the police in the community where the theft took place. Get a copy of the report in case your bank, credit card company or other creditors ask for proof of the crime. Note, though, that you may have to be persistent with the police. Many police departments may not see you as the victim, since the credit lenders are the ones that have lost money. (Never mind the fact your good name and credit standing has been violated!) They prefer the creditor to make the report, and often the creditor views the loss merely as a cost of doing business and doesnt want to spend extra time and energy to help the police in a thorough investigation.

The FTCs web site provides additional information on how to prevent identity theft, what to do if you become a victim of identity theft, the federal and state laws that may apply in various cases of identity theft, and numerous contacts for help in reporting the crime and in restoring your credit and good name. The address is http://www.creditscore.net/additional-resources/fight-identity-theft/.

To order a credit report: 800-685-1111
To report fraud: 800-525-6285

To order a credit report: 888-397-3742
To report fraud: 888-397-3742

Trans Unionwww.tuc.com
To order a credit report: 800-916-8800
To report fraud: 800-680-7289

Shes Just Starting Out, but Has To Fight To Restore Her Financial Identity!

The young woman isnt sure how her identity was stolen. But she thinks that around December 1999, a dumpster diver grabbed her mail. 

Since she periodically received mail concerning her school loan, the thief could have obtained all the personal identifying information he or she needed from one of these letters.

With whatever documents the thief obtained, he or she applied for and received several credit cards in her name, and eventually ran up debt amounting to almost $50,000, including 28 pages of cell phone charges.

Since discovering the identify theft in April 2000, the young woman and, more recently, her husband have been trying to clear her credit record. She has been discouraged by the response from the police and the creditors: Its ridiculous that police stations and the people who gave [the thief] credit will take no responsibility to correct this problem. 

Her advice: Buy a shredder and shred everything! Also, get a locking mailbox so people cant rummage through your mail.