On Identity Theft
I’ve had a couple of friends who were burglarized. If the invasion of one’s home isn’t horrific enough, the aftermath of dealing with potential identity theft hurts like salt on a fresh wound.
I wanted to capture the research they did to cope with identity theft, so others may benefit from it. One good outcome is that they prioritized backing up their computers and having a procedure to secure data for their household afterwards.
The steps below apply to incidents in the U.S., but there must be information for other parts of the world on the Internet.
- Call your local police and file a police report with local law
enforcement about the break-in.
- Contact the fraud departments of the 3 major credit bureaus. Ask them to “flag” your account to tell creditors that you are a victim of ID fraud. You can also request to add a “victim’s statement” to each credit report which prompts the creditors to contact you in person to verify all applications made in your name.
- Equifax Fraud Assistance: 1-800-525-6285
- Experian Fraud Assistance: 1-888-397-3742
- TransUnion Fraud Assistance: 1-800-680-7289
- Notify your bank to have them issue you new numbers for your accounts. Do not keep the same Personal Identification Number (PIN) for your ATM and debit cards: pick new ones! Close all credit card accounts and open new ones.
- Inform the Postal Inspector: mail theft is a felony, so it’s worth notifying the Postal Inspector if you suspect mail theft.
- Consider obtaining a new social security number by contacting the Social Security Administration (the down side is your credit history starts from scratch, and you have to update the number on accounts you submitted the number for, like retirement accounts). (My friend opted not to do it, but still checked out their webpage to learn what stolen numbers are used for.)
- Use resources provided by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC):
- FTC Identity Theft Hotline 1-877-IDTHEFT (1-877-438-4338, toll-free)
- ID Theft website where you can obtain ID theft affidavits to simplify the process of clearing up accounts opened by an identity theft at http://www.consumer.gov/idtheft/
- Take detailed notes on anyone you correspond with regarding the case including times and topics discussed, because the process of defending against identity theft can go on for years.
- Request a seven-year credit flag. The default is only 3 months. Apparently they don’t just process your request and you may have to make a case for it: burglary seems like a solid justification.
- Scan the copy of the police report, if you are able to get it: you will probably need it to submit to the credit agencies
- Investigate if you can speak with a detective who specializes in identity theft. My friend worked with both the police, and somehow the FBI. Radio silence for 4 years and then he received a letter in the mail from the Department of Justice detailing the convictions they had made with people involved in his case!
- Read all your bank statements closely and close the account if there is any suspicious behavior.
- If there is a feature to place a password on any financial accounts you have, opt for it (or change to financial institutions if there isn’t that feature because really, that’s lousy security). This password is not the same as the PIN but rather a password you have to provide to conduct any banking transaction in person.
- Think of all the places or organizations where you gave out personal information, and contact them if you have any concerns (e.g., driver’s license department).
Photo: Doors in a preserved village in Seoul, Korea