Every month the Upper Allen Police Department investigates cases dealing with the theft of one’s own identity. The crime of Identity Theft is committed when someone, without authorization, uses your identifying information. Identifying information, in any form, can be lost or stolen. Your identifying information includes your name and date of birth, driver’s license number, social security number, bank account numbers, credit card numbers and more and it is not limited to physical cards and papers.
Crime in every form presents a unique set of hardships, obstacles and challenges to victims. Identity Theft is no different in that the effects can endure in the form of damaged personal credit, financial loss, inability to secure loans for education and cars, and lost job opportunities. Identity Theft victims often feel embarrassed and helpless to fix the damage that has befallen their good name.
Today’s information age has added a new vehicle for criminals to use in a wide range of crimes. It is important to remember that the crimes have not changed and neither have the rules to protect yourself.
Meet Internet e-mail, web sites, and chats with the same level of scrutiny that you use in your everyday life. Do not reply to e-mails, instant messages or chat rooms requesting sensitive identifying information such as passwords and account numbers. Recently the popularity of eBay has been exploited by identity thieves. To learn more about fraudulent solicitation for eBay account information, visit eBay’s Spoof Tutorial.
What do I do if I am the victim of Identity Theft?
- File a police report. Victims are required to file a police report in order to dispute fraudulent transactions, correct compromised accounts, place fraud alerts with the credit bureaus and to obtain free copies of their credit reports from the credit bureaus to review.
You may file a police report with the law enforcement agency that serves the area in which you live. The report may also be filed with the law enforcement agency that has jurisdiction at the place in which your identifying information was used. Finally, in the case of a business account, the law enforcement agency that serves your business address may investigate the report.
Make sure to write down the investigator’s name and the police incident number. Additionally, request a letter from the investigating agency confirming you have reported the theft and it is under investigation. Keep this letter to provide a copy to any creditors that may contact you so that you can prove you are a victim of Identity Theft. It is important to note that many law enforcement agencies will not release the police report itself due to the confidentiality of police records. A letter confirming the investigation should suffice for purposes of confirming you have reported the crime.
- Contact each of the three credit bureaus and place a fraud alert on your credit reports. This will flag your credit reports and prevent further damage by the thief. While it should only be necessary to contact one of the three listed below, we recommend contacting all three. Fraud alerts require an entity or business to verify a person’s identity before issuing credit. Fraud alerts also enable you to receive free credit reports from the credit bureaus in order to identify fraudulent activity or accounts. Note, The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires each major nationwide credit bureau to provide consumers with a free annual credit report which can be obtained through www.annualcreditreport.com. The credit bureau contract information is as follows:
- Close accounts that may have been compromised. Contact your bank and credit card companies, if necessary, and open new accounts. If there are already fraudulent charges on your accounts then request the appropriate dispute forms from the bank or other involved financial institution. Avoid using a common account security such as mother’s maiden name because a thief may already have that information. Instead, assign a unique password that you have never used in the past.
- Obtain and complete an Identity Theft Affidavit for each compromised for each fraudulently opened account. You, as the victim, are required to prepare this affidavit stating that you did not commit the fraud. A copy of this affidavit is often required, coupled with a police report number, to be submitted to every creditor, business, and debt collector through which a fraudulent account or transaction has occurred. A copy of an Identity Theft Affidavit that is accepted by most businesses, creditors and debt collectors can be obtained at the Federal Trade Commission website at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/resources/forms/affidavit.pdf
- Report the crime to the Federal Trade Commission. You can file a complaint online at www.ftc.gov/idtheft or call the FTC’s Identity Theft Hotline, toll-free: 1-877-IDTHEFT (438-4338); TTY: 1-866-653- 4261; or write: Identity Theft Clearinghouse, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20580. This information is then processed into the Consumer Sentinel Database that is available only to law enforcement officers.
Where can I learn more about Identity Theft and online fraud?