Quick Start Guide
We’ve all heard horror stories about fraud that’s committed using your name, address, SS#, credit, etc. Unfortunately I (author of this piece) have firsthand knowledge, because my wallet was stolen last month and within a week the thieves 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 who to call. Keep those where you can find them easily (having to hunt for them is additional stress you WON’T need at that point!). I remember losing a MC and until I got the toll free number from information, etc. I was a wreck. 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 toward an investigation (if there ever is one). 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. The numbers are:
Equifax 1-800 525-6285
Experian (formerly TRW) 1-800-301-7195
Trans Union 1-800-680-7289
Social Security Administration also has a fraud line at 1-800-269-0271
Just a reminder, if you or someone you know is a victim of Identity Theft, you will want to go to the below websites for valuable information to assist in clearing your good name. Although new laws have been enacted, it is still up to the victim of identity theft to do the research and prepare a journal of activity. Copies of the journal can be provided to law enforcement, financial institutions, merchants, collection agencies and the credit bureaus as needed.
Actions After Theft
- Credit bureaus, place fraud alert on credit history
- Tele-check and chex-systems to identify other negative activity if on file
- Driver’s license bureaus to determine if driver’s license has been compromised with change of address and photo
- An activity journal in chronological order
Use a computer if available to simplify updating. Begin with the first incident of fraudulent activity. Document dates, times, locations, persons in contact with, addresses, phone numbers, and the gist of conversation. Include police agency name, file number, and date/time reported. Include copies of all documents received or released.
- A cover letter to be used for written contact with police, merchants, financial institutions, collection agencies, etc.
Describe your true identity, and include photos such as your driver’s license or employment id and photo. Describe the circumstances around the identity theft.
- A master letter to be used to promptly reply to inquiry by merchants, collection agencies, financial institutions, police, etc.
Describe your true identity and what was stolen. Include police agency name, file number, and date/time reported. Leave space to respond to the fraudulent document in question. Recommend filing fraudulent document report with local police agency.
- Law enforcement
If a theft report is already on file, the cover letter and copy of activity journal should be submitted and included with original police report of theft. If there is no known theft of identification, report information to your local police agency. Update your activity journal with the police agency name, file number, date, time, and the name of the officer/detective the report was filed with. The report is to assist law enforcement investigation if fraudulent activity is reported. If the law enforcement agency is reluctant to take a report, contact the detective responsible for forgery and fraud investigations. If you are unable to file a report with the police, include the information in your activity journal.
Be aware that resolving the issue of impersonation might require perseverance. It is very important to document all activity so that if required to reply to an inquiry, the necessary information is readily available and current. An inquirer can be referred to others that have mutual interests identifying the impersonator to avoid further potential losses. The inclusion of one or more photos with the cover letter or master letter may further clarify that an impersonation has taken place. The dissemination of this information should be made with caution and directed to only those that have a need. You may wish to later inquire with the credit bureaus to determine if additional impersonation has taken place.
Major Credit Bureaus
|To Order Report:||To Order Report:||To Order Report:|
|(800) 997-2493||(888) 397-3742 or 1-800-520-1221||(800) 888-4213|
|Fraud # (800) 525-6285||Fraud # (800) 331-4769 (option 4)||Fraud # (800) 680-7289|
The following websites also have information pertinent to identity theft: