WGN-TV Show Notes â€“ February 24, 2005
Fallout from the Choicepoint identity theft scam continues. In California, a victim filed suit against the company and is seeking class action status for the 145,000 consumers whose personal information may have been compromised, including more than 8,000 in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin.
As scary as it is, that number is just a drop in the bucket compared to the 10 to 20 million consumers whose identity was stolen last year. What should you do if your identity has been stolen?
The Federal Trade Commission says that identity theft is the fastest growing crime in the country, with more than 1100 identities stolen each hour, 19 per minute. If your identity is stolen, the most important thing you can do is act fast to get the situation back under control.
Start by calling the fraud unit of one of the three major credit reporting bureaus, Experian, Equifax and Transunion. Ask the company to place a fraud alert on your credit file. The fraud alert asks creditors to contact you by phone before opening any new accounts or making changes to your existing accounts. As soon as the credit bureau confirms your fraud alert, the other two credit bureaus will add fraud alerts to your credit file and all three bureaus will send you a free credit report. Military personnel can request a special 1-year fraud alert to cover them while on active duty.
You should ask the credit bureaus for the contact information for all creditors listed on your file, and to remove any fraudulent inquiries to your credit file. That’s important because too many inquiries can drag down your credit score. You can also ask the bureaus to resend your credit history to anyone who received it in the last 6 months, and up to 2 years for employers.
Next, write creditors to close accounts you know or believe have been tampered with or opened fraudulently. If you’ve had checks stolen, or your checking account has been compromised, be sure to contact check verification companies like telecheck and checkrite. Keep copies of all your letters to these companies.
Identity theft victims often forget to report the theft of your identity to your local police or sheriff’s department, but that’s an important record to have on file. You may also need to report it to the police departments where the crime has occurred.
The police report should list all of the fraudulent accounts that have been opened with your Social Security number. Get a copy of the report and your investigator’s phone number. Add it to your paper trail.
Although identity theft centers around the misuse of your Social Security number, the agency only rarely gives id theft victims a new number. You can call the Social Security Administration and order a free copy of your earnings and benefits statement to check whether someone has used your Social Security number to get a job or avoid paying taxes.
Although the Federal Trade Commission doesn’t investigate individual cases of identity theft, it does analyze consumer complaints to its website, www.ftc.gov. So be sure to file a complaint if your identity has been stolen.
Federal Trade Commission’s identity theft information Federal Trade Commission (http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/credit/idtheft.htm)
You’ll also find excellent information on what to do if you’ve been an identity theft victim from the privacy rights clearinghouse:
TO REPORT FRAUDULENT USE OF YOUR CHECKS:
* checkrite: (800) 766-2748
* Chexsystems: (800) 428-9623
* checkcenter/crosscheck: (800) 843-0760
* Certigy/Equifax: (800) 437-5120
* International Check Services: (800) 526-5380
* SCAN: (800) 262-7771
* telecheck: (800) 710-9898
If your Social Security number has been used to commit identity theft, call the Social Security Administration at 800-772-1213. You can order a copy of your earnings and benefits statement to check whether someone has used your Social Security number to get a job or to avoid paying taxes.
SOME USEFUL PHONE NUMBERS
* Federal Trade Commission’s Identity Theft Hotline 877/ID-THEFT
* Social Security Administration’s Fraud Hotline 800-269-0271
* Equifax Fraud Division 800-525-6285 P.O. Box 740250 Atlanta, GA 30374
* Experian Fraud Division 888-397-3742 P.O. Box 1017 Allen, TX 75013
* Trans-Union Fraud Division 800-680-7289 P.O. Box 6790 Fullerton, CA 92634
TRANS-UNION also has a fraud victim assistance department, the Fraud Victim Assistance Department (FVAD).
If you have questions, you can email the FVAD at [email protected].
The FVAD responds to your email as soon as possible. However, should you require an immediate answer, you may wish to call the FVAD toll-free at 800-680-7289, Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. In your time zone.
If you want to know more about identity theft and credit fraud, the following nonprofit Web sites are excellent sources of information and additional contact information:
- US Government’s Web site for identity theft
- US Government: Know Fraud Program
- US Government: Identity theft clearinghouse
- FTC consumer complaint form
- US Department of Justice:
- Social Security Administration/Office of the Inspector General fraud Web site
- US Secret Service: What to do if you’re a victim of identity theft
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO PREVENT IDENTITY THEFT?
Shred all credit card offers and anything you’re throwing away that has your Social Security number, address or telephone number on it.
Make sure your driver’s license and checks do not have your Social Security number on them.
Check your credit reports every six months with the major 3 bureaus. Credit reporting bureaus are the ones selling your name to the credit card companies that flood your mailbox with offers. You can opt to get off their lists by calling: 1-888-5-OPTOUT.
As of March 1, 2005, Midwest residents will become eligible to get a free copy of their credit history from each of the three credit reporting bureaus. Log onto www.annualcreditreport.com for more information. But beware, this is THE ONLY LEGITIMATE SITE to get your free credit reports. If you want your credit score, it will cost you $6.95.
Need personal finance advice or real estate advice? Send your questions to Ilyce Glink: www.ThinkGlink.com
Copyright Â© 2005, WGN-TV
Feb. 24, 2005.