What Should I Do If My Identity is Stolen?
Authored By: Texas RioGrande Legal Aid - Austin
If you are a victim of identity theft, take the following steps immediately and keep a record of all conversations, dates, time, names, and telephone numbers. For every person or business you contact by telephone, follow up with a letter.
1. Call one of the three credit reporting bureaus to place a "fraud alert" on your credit report. The credit bureau that you call will place a fraud alert on your credit report at all three credit bureaus. When you place the fraud alert, you must be given the opportunity to get a free credit report. Order credit reports from the bureau(s) when you call.
- Equifax- Report fraud at 800-525-6285, or Box 105069, Atlanta, GA 30348-5069. Get a copy of your credit report at 800-685-1111 or www.equifax.com
- Experian - Report fraud at 888-397-3742, or Box 1017, Allen, TX 75013. Obtain a copy of your credit report at 888-397-3742 or www.experian.com
- Transunion - Report fraud at 800-680-7289, or Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92634. Obtain a copy of your credit report at 800-916-8800 www.transunion.com
Follow up your calls in writing. Your main message, both on the phone and in writing is:
"My identification has been or may be used to apply for credit fraudulently. Contact me by phone (give them your number) to verify all applications."
2. Download the ID Theft Affidavit at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/resources/forms/affidavit.pdf ) and fill it out.
3. Fill out the Fraudulent Account Statement that is with the ID Theft Affidavit for each bank and creditor. You will need a separate Fraudulent Account Statement for each bank and creditor that you are going to contact because each one needs the separate account number.
4. Call your local police department. Ask them to take a report, and either give you a copy of the report or its number. Get the name of the police officer you talk to. The police report is necessary to show to credit reporting bureaus, banks and credit card companies that you were careful to prevent fraud. Give the police department a copy of your completed theft affidavit. Note: sometimes police will resist taking a report of identity theft. Be firm but polite. Texas law mandates that police take theft report where the victim lives.
5. Send a dispute letter to each creditor, bank, or company where the thief used your identity. You can find a sample dispute letter at the VICARS website, www.idvictim.org. You must attach: a copy of your identification card (that is, your driver's license, green card, or Texas ID card); a copy of your police report or written proof that you made a police report; and, a copy of your identity theft affidavit to the letter.
6. Contact all your creditors by telephone (use the "billing inquiries" numbers on your statements) and in writing and tell them about the fraud. Get new cards with new account numbers. Tell them to process your old accounts as "closed at consumer's request."
7. Contact anyone to whom you might have written checks who have not cashed them yet, explain the situation and arrange another way or another time to pay.
8. Watch your mail and credit card bills for evidence of new fraud. Within 60 days of a fraudulent billing, you can make a written dispute about the charges.
9. Do not pay any bill or portion of a bill which is a result of identity theft. Do not cover any checks which were written and/or cashed fraudulently. Do not file bankruptcy. Your credit rating should not be permanently affected, and no legal action should be taken against you. If any merchant, bank, credit card company, or collection agency suggests otherwise, simply restate your willingness to cooperate, but don't let yourself be bullied into paying fraudulent bills.
10. Avoid any companies that offer to "repair your credit" for you. If you want it done right, do it yourself.
11. Alert the phone company and utility companies that someone might try to open a new account in your name. Again, the drill is the same-phone call, followed up in writing.
12. Report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission identity theft hotline: 1-877-438-4338, or www.consumer.gov/idtheft There are about 1,500 calls a week to the hotline. For information on credit laws, call 202-326-2222.
Here is some specific advice for the most common Identity Theft situations:
A) Bad Checks or Bank Accounts
If your checks have been stoteln, or your bacnk account has been used without your permission, go to your bank. Report the incident in person. Ask that the account be re-numbered and that the old account number be placed in the Closed Account Notification System (CANS). You will be asked to fill out an affidavit to do this. Also, report it to the check verification companies:
- Check Rite - 800-766-2748
- Equifax - Telecredit- 800-437-5120
- NPC - 800-526-5380
- Tele-Check - 800-710-9898
- Chex Systems - 800-328-5121
- CrosskCheck - 800-552-1900
- SCAN - 800-262-7771
Put stop payments on any outstanding checks to that you are unsure whether or not they have been cashed and cancel your checking and savings accounts and obtain new account numbers. If your ATM or debit card has been stolen, report it immediately. Get a new card, account number and password.
B) Mail fraud
If you suspect an identity thief has filed a change of address with the post office or has used the mail to commit fraud, notify the local Postal Inspector (800-275-8777). Find out where the fraudulent credit cards were sent and notify the local Postmaster for that address to forward all mail in your name to your own address. You may also need to talk to the mail carrier. If you believe your mail has been stolen, contact the U.S. Postal Inspection Service at www.usps.com/postalinspectors.
Whether or not you have a passport, write the passport office to alert them to anyone ordering a passport in your name.
D) Long Distance Calling Card
If your long distance calling card has been stolen or you discover fraudulent charges on your bill, cancel the account and open a new one. Get a password which must be used anytime the account is changed.
E) Social Security Earnings and IRS
If you suspect that someone is using your social security number, you need to report to the Social Security Office at 800-269-0271, 800-772-1213 or email@example.com.You can order your Earnings and Benefits Statement at 800-772-1213. You should continue to follow up on your investigation on a regular basis. If the Social Security Office decides that there is someone else using your social security number, you can report this information to the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Unit at 800-829-0433; www.treas.gov/irs/ci.
F) Driver's License Number
If someone has used your driver's license number as identification on bad checks, call the local Department of Public Safety office and report the fraud. Put a fraud alert on your license and request a new number. Also, fill out the DPS complaint form to begin the investigation process. http://www.txdps.state.tx.us/director_staff/public_information/pr040902.htm
G) Wrongfully Accused of Crimes or Traffic Infractions
If you are wrongfully accused of crimes or traffic infractions, you must get a stolen identity file. To do this, contact your local Sheriff's office. You will have to go in person and have your photograph and fingerprints taken. The Sheriff's office will send your information to the Texas Department of Public Safety, and you will receive a letter with a password stating that you are a victim of identity theft. If you get stopped for a crime you did not commit, tell the officer that you have a stolen identity file and password. The officer can verify your password through the computer in the police cruiser.
For more information, go to www.idvictim.org.