Source: The Florida Attorney General's Office
Identity theft is a serious problem that affects millions each year. When an imposter uses your name, social security number (SSN), credit card number, or any other form of personal information without your knowledge, it’s a crime.
Unfortunately, sometimes victims remain unaware that their identity has been stolen until they receive monthly statements for credit card accounts they never applied for, credit reports including unfamiliar debts or monthly statements that include unauthorized charges.
If someone has stolen your identity, immediately take these three steps:
Contact the fraud departments of each of the three major credit bureaus. Ask them to flag your file with a fraud alert and include a statement that creditors should ask for permission before opening any new accounts under your name.
Ask the credit bureaus for copies of your credit reports. Credit bureaus must give you a free copy of your report if it is inaccurate because of fraud. Review your reports carefully to make sure no additional fraudulent accounts have been opened in your name or unauthorized charges made to your existing accounts. In a few months, order new copies of your reports to verify corrections and changes, and to make sure no new fraudulent activity has occurred. More information on your rights and the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
Second, contact the creditors for any accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently. Speak with someone in the security or fraud department, and follow up in writing. Following up with a letter is one of the procedures spelled out in the Fair Credit Billing Act for resolving errors on credit billing statements, including charges that you have not made. Sample letters are available at IdentityTheft.gov
Third, Fraudulent Use of Personal identification Information is a violation of Florida law pursuant to §817.568, Florida Statutes (1999). File a report with your local police department or the police in the community where the identity theft took place. Keep a copy just in case creditors need proof of the crime.
Although identity thieves can destroy your personal finances, there are some things you can do to take control of the situation.
Some ways to handle the most common forms of identity theft are:
Taking the steps outlined here should, in most cases, resolve your identity theft problems, but identity theft or related credit problems may reoccur. Stay alert to new instances of identity theft. Notify the company, creditor or agency that is involved immediately and always follow up in writing.
Order a copy of your credit report from the three credit bureaus every year to check on their accuracy and whether they include only those debts and loans you’ve incurred. This could be very important if you’re considering a major purchase, such as a house or car. A credit bureau may charge a fee for a copy of your report.
More resources and information, including an identity theft toolkit, are available online at: http://myfloridalegal.com/identitytheft
If you’ve been a victim of identity theft, file a complaint with FTC by contacting their Identity Theft Hotline toll-free at, 1-877-IDTHEFT (438-4338); or TDD at 202-326-2502; by mail to the Identity Theft Clearinghouse, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20580. You may also file a complaint online at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/
The FTC publishes free brochures on identity theft and many consumer issues. For a complete list of publications, write for Best Sellers, Consumer Response Center, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20580; or call toll-free 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357), TDD 202-326-2502; or log on to http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/consumer.shtm.