Victim Resources

If you believe that you are a victim of identity theft, there are a number of important steps for you to follow. Be prepared to document all unauthorized transactions and to be patient -- the process can take a number of months.

Step 1: Contact your bank and other credit card issuers. 

If the theft involved existing bank accounts (checking or savings accounts as well as credit or debit cards) you should take the following steps:

  • Put stop payment orders on all outstanding checks that might have been written without your knowledge or permission.
  • Close all existing credit card accounts and any account accessible by debit card.
  • Open up new accounts protected with a secret password or personal identification number (“PIN”). Do not use the same passwords or PINs as on the original accounts.
  • Do not use common numbers (like birth dates, part of your social security number), or commonly chosen words (such as a child’s, spouse’s, or pet’s name) as passwords or PINs.

Step 2: File a report with your local law enforcement agency.

 According to Colorado law (§ 16-5-103, C.R.S.), "the local law enforcement agency ... shall take a police report on the matter [and] provide the complainant with a copy of that report." Obtaining that report will help you in dealing with your banks, creditors, and the major credit reporting bureaus (see Step 4).

Step 3: File a report with the Federal Trade Commission.

 You can go online to file an identity theft complaint with the FTC at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/. Many creditors and the major credit reporting bureaus will accept the ID Theft Affidavit, or for more resources visit Tools for Victims available on the FTC web site.

Step 4: Contact all three major credit reporting bureaus.  

First, ask the credit bureaus to place a “fraud alert” on your file. You must then be contacted directly before any new credit is taken out in your name. Second, when you get a report from your local law enforcement agency (Step 2), file it immediately with the credit reporting bureaus. Colorado law requires the credit bureau to then block any new, negative credit information resulting from the theft of your identity. A fraud report filed with one bureau will be shared with the other bureaus.

You can contact the fraud units at each of the bureaus as follows:

Credit Bureau To Report Fraud
Equifax
P.O. Box 740256
Atlanta, GA 30374
Consumer Fraud Division
(800) 525-6285
Experian
P.O. Box 9530
Allen, TX 75013
National Consumer Assistance
(888) 397-3742
TransUnion
P.O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92834
Fraud Victim Assistance Dept.
(800) 680-7289

Step 5: Contact all of your creditors by phone and in writing.

 File a law enforcement report, or the FTC's ID Theft Affidavit, with each creditor (some may require that you use their own form of affidavit).

  • Keep copies of all correspondence and documents exchanged with each creditor.
  • Cancel all existing credit card accounts and open replacement accounts. Ask that those cancelled accounts be processed as "account closed at customer's request" to avoid any negative reporting to credit bureaus.
  • If replacement accounts or credit cards require passwords or PINs to access, do not use the same passwords or PINs as on the original accounts.
  • Do not use common numbers (like birth dates, part of your social security number), or commonly chosen words (such as a child’s, spouse’s, or pet’s name) as passwords or PINs.

Step 6: Notify the phone company.  

If the identity theft involves the misuse of a long-distance telephone account, cellular telephone, or other telephone service, contact your telephone or wireless company and immediately close all existing accounts. If replacement accounts require passwords or PINs to access, do not use the same passwords or PINs as on the original accounts. Do not use common numbers (like birth dates, part of your social security number), or commonly chosen words (such as a child’s, spouse’s, or pet’s name) as passwords or PINs.

Step 7: Notify the post office.

 If you suspect that your mail has been stolen or diverted with a false change-of-address request, contact your local postal inspector. You can obtain the address and telephone number of your local postal inspector by visiting the United States Postal Service web site.

Step 8: Notify the Social Security Administration.  

If you suspect that someone is using your social security number to obtain credit or employment, contact the Social Security Administration's fraud hotline at 1-800-269-0271 (TTY: 1-866-501-2101). To check the accuracy of your work history, order a copy of your Personal Earnings and Benefit Estimate Statement (PEBES) and check it for accuracy. You can obtain a PEBES application at your local Social Security office or you can download one from the Social Security Administration web site.

Step 9: Notify the State Department.

 If your passport has been stolen, notify the passport office in writing to be on guard for anyone ordering a new passport in your name. Contact: US Department of State, Passport Services -- Consular Lost/Stolen Passport Section, 1111 19th Street, N.W., Suite 500, Washington, D.C. 20036. Phone number is (202) 955-0430. You can obtain additional information from their web site.

Step 10: If you are contacted by a collection agency.

If you are contacted by a collection agency about a debt for which you are not responsible, immediately notify them that you did not create the debt and that you are a victim of identity theft. Follow up with the collection agency and creditor in writing and include a copy of your law enforcement report or ID Theft Affidavit. Send your letter, and copy of the report or affidavit, “return receipt requested,” or with some other process that gives you proof that the collection agency received your letter. If the collection agency continues to contact you, file a complaint with the Colorado Collection Agency Board, 1525 Sherman Street, 7th Floor, Denver, CO 80203. 303-866-5304. Additional information is available on-line at

 

Clearing up the problems caused by identity theft can be a time intensive, as well as an emotional and frustrating process. It can take weeks, and even months, of work contacting creditors and credit reporting bureaus. Do not give up. Exercise all of your consumer rights and retain an attorney if creditors and credit reporting bureaus are not cooperating with your efforts to clear your name and credit.

Download a personal Identity Theft Checklist and Journal to keep track of your contacts as you work through these steps.

How can I protect my credit rating if I am victimized?

You have worked hard to establish a good credit. One of the most unfortunate effects of identity theft is what it can do to your credit rating. Negative information on your credit report due to fraud or identity theft can hurt you months or even years.

Some new protections for you and your credit rating were passed by Congress late last year. You now have significant new rights and remedies under that federal law in the event you have become a victim of fraud or identity theft. These rights and remedies, as well as obligations that the consumer reporting agencies (such as Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) have, are described in detail in a Final Rule adopted by the Federal Trade Commission on November 30, 2004. This Rule goes into effect on January 31, 2005.

Links:

Can I minimize my losses if I am a victim of identity theft?

Despite all precautions, you may still find yourself the victim of identity theft. However, there are several things you can do to more quickly discover the theft of your identity and to minimize your losses.

  • Thoroughly review all bank statements, credit card bills, long-distance telephone bills, medical statements and other records dealing with your finances immediately when you receive them in the mail or on-line. Any discrepancies, including unauthorized charges or withdrawals, may show up here first. Your failure to use “ordinary care” by reconciling your bank statements and reporting any unauthorized activity immediately may negatively impact your ability to seek restitution from your bank for forged checks.
  • Record all normal billing and statement cycles so that you will notice immediately if expected mail fails to arrive. Contact your local post office immediately if you suspect your mail has been stolen or diverted. Follow up with your bank and any creditors if statements or bills do not arrive as usual.
  • Put passwords or PIN numbers on your credit and other bank card accounts and on your telephone card accounts. Do NOT write or print this password or PIN number on the card itself or on any other paper kept with your card. If they are stolen, it is much more difficult for the thieves to run up unauthorized charges.
  • Order a copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus at least once every year. Under Colorado law, you are entitled to one free copy of your credit report each year. Make sure the reports are accurate and include only those activities you have authorized.

 

 

Identity Theft

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