Protecting Your Identity
VICTIM: It was very scary, I felt very helpless, I did not know who had taken my money.
PETER HOLLAND: If they have your name, your date of birth, and your social security number, they are well on their way to getting the tools they need to steal you of your identify and rack up thousands of dollars of debt in your name.
VICTIM: My fishing attack happened in January 2004.
IRWIN KRAMER: Clever con men are literally "phishing" for this information via e-mail and on the internet.
VICTIM: I received an e-mail from what I thought was my bank asking me to fill out security information, as what they said.
PETER HOLLAND: Do not give out your date of birth, do not give out your social security number, and do not give out your phone number.
IRWIN KRAMER: An identity thief who really wants this information and is willing to work for it, can probably get it, but they are not thieves because they want to work hard, they are after easy money and the problem is that many people make themselves easy targets by volunteering this information.
VICTIM: I responded and I filled out my password, my pin number, my mother's maiden name, sensitive information about my bank account under the impression that I was protecting myself. The next day when I went to the bank to withdraw money, I saw that over $1600 of my account or just about all the money that I had in my bank account was missing.
IRWIN KRAMER: So, be very careful about what you do online because what you say can be used against you.
PETER HOLLAND: Make sure that an internet, merchant or the bank that you are doing business with is legitimate.
IRWIN KRAMER: Check your current report once a year to be sure that the accounts reflected there are really yours.
PETER HOLLAND: Some people have been caught for literally years trying to fix the misinformation.
IRWIN KRAMER: You will be surprised just how many credit reports contain errors, some of them put there by people who are trading on your good name.
PETER HOLLAND: And the way you can avoid that trap is if you become the unfortunate victim, act immediately. Cancel all of your credit cards and put a fraud watch on them, put the breaks on it immediately to minimize the headaches that will come down the road and contact the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-ID-THEFT.
Felons are phishing for your finances. If they mess up yours, take the following steps as soon as possible, keeping records of your conversations and copies of all correspondence.
- Place a fraud alert on your credit reports by contacting the credit bureaus immediately
- Get a copy of your credit report and review them carefully for inaccuracies or inappropriate charges
- Close the accounts that you know, or believe, have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.
- Call and speak to someone in the security or fraud department of each company. Follow aup in writing, and include copies of supporting documents. Itï¿½s important to notify credit card companies and banks in writing. Send your letters by certified mail, return receipt requested, so you can document what the company received and when. Keep a file of your correspondence and enclosures.
- File a report with your local police or the police in the community where the identity theft took place and get a copy of the police report, or at the very least, the number of the report to help you deal with creditors who need proof of the crime
- If the identity thief has made charges or debits on your accounts, or on fraudulently opened accounts, ask the company for the forms to dispute those transactions
- For charges and debits on existing accounts, ask the representative to send you the company's fraud dispute forms. If the company doesn't have special forms, write a letter to dispute the fraudulent charges or debits. In either case, write to the company at the address given for "billing inquiries," NOT the address for sending your payments.
- For new unauthorized accounts, ask if the company accepts the ID Theft Affidavit. If not, ask the representative to send you the company's fraud dispute forms. If the company already has reported these accounts or debts on your credit report, dispute this fraudulent information. Once you have resolved your identity theft dispute with the company, ask for a letter stating that the company has closed the disputed accounts and has discharged the fraudulent debts. This letter is your best proof if errors relating to this account reappear on your credit report or you're contacted again about the fraudulent debt.
- File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission which will help law enforcement officials across the nation track down identity thieves and investigate companies for similar violations
- Federal Trade Commission's Identity Theft Hotline: 1-877-ID-THEFT
- Notify the FTC Online by clicking here
- Equifax: 1-800-525-6285 or click here to reach that credit bureau
- Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN or click here to reach that credit bureau
- TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289 or click here to reach that credit bureau
To help prevent future incidents, use PIN numbers that no one else could possibly know. Identity thieves know that many people use their mother's maiden name, their birth date or the last four digits of their social security numbers. In many cases, these were the keys that these con artists use to trade on your good name.