What to do if you are a Victim of Identity Theft in Arizona
For the past 13 years, identity theft has been one of the most listed consumer complaints registered by the FTC – Federal Trade Commission. There are anticipating it will once again top the charts for year 14. According to the latest report data from 2012, there are more than 12.6 million people who suffered from this senseless crime. The latest impact affected over 70 million people, which was when Niemen Marcus and Target experienced data breaches. Many people are concerned that they too may become a victim of identity theft, and they want to know how to protect themselves.
First, it is important to notate that identity theft takes on many forms. It can include credit card fraud, making falsified applications for new credit, making unauthorized withdrawals from a bank account, doing illegal acts with a deceitful IP address online, medical care scams and Social Security fraud. If you suspect that you have been a victim of an identity theft scam, you need to take steps to protect yourself and minimize the damages.
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1. Protect Your Credit Report with an Alert
When you have been a victim of a scam, you need to have an alert put on your credit report that notates this information. Creditors need to take extra steps to verify the identity of anyone trying to use that Social Security number to obtain credit. The alert will only last for 90 days, but it will go on all three credit reports. If you contact just one of these agencies, they will notify the other two. The three main credit bureaus are Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. You also have the option of putting a security freeze on your reports. A security freeze is considered to be an effective theft prevention measure.
Creditors will not be able to access your credit report at all, except those creditors that already have your verified business. Any new credit applications that are made during this period will automatically be declined. If you need to apply for new credit during this period of time, you will have to go through a few extra steps to ensure that you can verify your identity. To get the account unthawed, you must file an application and contact the company that put the freeze on the account in the first place.
Once a fraud alert has been placed on your credit report, you can obtain a free copy of the report from all of the agencies. This will allow you to go through your report and notate any discrepancies. You can dispute the items online. Unfortunately, there are some items that must be disputed in writing and they will also need supporting documentation.
When someone views your credit report, it is called a hard inquiry. These items cannot be disputed. However, it can alert you to who might be looking at your credit and if someone has applied for credit in your name. The fraud alert will be in place for 90 days. However, you can extend both security freezes and fraud alerts for a small fee.
2. Contact Any Institution Directly Affected
If you know for a fact that your credit card was stolen, you can call the credit card company and report it. For instances, if your checkbook was stolen, contact the bank to put a stop on those checks. If anyone tries to present the credit cards or the checks for payment, they will be declined. Start by preparing a list of phone numbers, account numbers and institutions affected. Keep a list of what’s inside your wallet separate and preferably under lock and key. This information will be vital in the case of identity theft.
3. Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
An affidavit is your sworn statement of the crime. You can file an Identity Theft Report by calling the FTC. If you have access to a computer, you can file the report online. Their toll-free number is 1-877-ID THEFT (877-438-4338). You can also mail the report to their address:
600 Pennsylvania Ave
Washington, DC 20580
The FTC is a great resource for victims of identity theft and they can tell you what step to take next. The course of action will depend on what type of fraud was committed.
4. File an Arizona Police Report
You need to file an Identity Theft Report with your local law enforcement office. Once the report is filed, obtain a copy of this report, as well as the report number for verification. You must report the incident to both the FTC and the police department. These reports will help you when contacting credit reporting agencies to get your security holds. They will ask for these reports, as it can also be a scam to get out of paying for bills that were incurred by the credit owner. It’s a layer of verification they need.
After you have filed a police report, it is advised to speak with an attorney about your Victim’s Rights of identity theft. Due to the severity and nature of the issue, you need to protect yourself of any false charges that could result in large amounts of money.
5. Protect Your Social Security Number
If you have proof that your Social Security number has been compromised, you need to contact their department at 1-800-269-0271. Also, you need to contact the IRS for identity theft at 1-800-829-0433.
Even if you don’t see any evidence of fraud on your credit report, you need to let the Social Security Administration know that you believe your number has been compromised. Just because the fraud hasn’t shown up yet, doesn’t mean a thief isn’t going to try to get their hands on your tax return or use your name for employment reasons.
Another agency to check with is the US Postal Service. One of the ways identity thieves work is by submitting a change of address and having your mail rerouted to their address. Notify the law enforcement security branch at your local post office. There is also a form online that you can fill out.
Speak with a Victims Attorney about Identity Theft before the damage occurs.
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Protection Your Good Name
This list is just a few basic guidelines, but it is not exhaustive. Clearing the wreckage caused by identity theft can be a labor intensive process that is not only complex but tiresome. If you need more information on how to protect, prevent or recover once you have been the victim of identity theft, contact the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission.