Helping Victims of Identity Theft

In 2012, there were 12.6 million new victims of identity theft in the United States—about 1 in 20 consumers. Anyone can be a victim, but certain groups are often more adversely affected because they have access to fewer resources with which to take action for protection.
Individuals must be vigilant in opening their mail, keeping track of finances and monitoring their credit cards. Fifty percent of consumers found the fraud themselves by monitoring their bank statements, and credit scores instead of being notified of the fraud by a bank or card issuer.
If a client seeking advice from you has been a victim of identity theft, there are four steps they should consider taking. Not all victims will need to take all four steps.

First, contact credit reporting agencies.

1. Obtain credit report
Everyone is eligible to receive one free report from each of the three major credit
reporting agencies once every 12 months by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com or
calling (877) 322-8228.
Instead of requesting all three reports at one time each year, space out requests every
four months. Each report will have slightly different reporting information, so it’s
important to request each report. The three major credit reporting agencies are:

a. Equifax: 800-525-6285, www.equifax.com 

b. Experian: 888-397-3742, www.experian.com

c. TransUnion: 800-680-7289, www.tuc.com

2. Review credit report

a. Look for indicators of identity theft: accounts client didn’t open, activity on
dormant accounts, erroneous personal information, or credit inquiries from
companies client didn’t contact.
b. Get fraudulent or inaccurate information removed by writing to both the credit
bureaus and the credit issuers following the instructions provided in the credit
report.

3. Place a fraud alert on credit reports by contacting one credit reporting agency, which
will alert the other two. The fraud alert will ensure that the lender takes additional steps
to verify that the client has authorized the additional credit line, credit limit etc.

a. There are two different types of fraud alert: initial, which is good for 90 days and
renewable, and extended, which is good for 7 years. In order to qualify for an
extended alert, client must have filed an identity theft report (see step three). A
fraud alert can be canceled at any time.
b. Consider a credit freeze, which prohibits the agencies from releasing credit
reports or scores without consumer authorization.

Second, contact the fraud department of companies where the identity thief has committed fraud

1. Ask a fraud investigator to close the accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently, and request a closure letter.
2. Ask for thief’s application and transaction records.
3. Send written dispute including an identity theft affidavit (see below).
4. If collection agencies are involved, contact them: request the amount of debt and the
creditor’s contact information, and dispute the debt.

Third, file an identity theft report with the Federal Trade Commission

1. Submit a report using the FTC’s online form: https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov or
by calling 1-877-438-4338.
2. Save the complaint reference number.
3. Whether the client submits a fraud report online or by phone an “Identity Theft Affidavit” will be created from the information provided.

a. If submitted online, print the Identity Theft Affidavit that will be available at the
end of the report.
b. If submitted over the phone, a representative will provide a password and email
a link to print the affidavit.

Fourth, file a police report with local police department or with the police in the community where the identity theft took place

Minnesota law requires police to write reports for identity theft victims. (Minn. Stat. §609.527, subd. 5)

1. Request an appointment for an in-person report filing.

a. Bring to the appointment:

i. A copy of the FTC Identity Theft Affidavit
ii. Any other proof of the theft
iii. A government issued photo ID
iv. Proof of address (lease agreement, utility bills, pay stubs)

2. Request a copy of the official police report.
3. Attach the Identity Theft Affidavit to the police report in order to create the “Identity
Theft Report”. Keep a complete copy.

a. Request an extended alert on client’s credit report.
b. The report can also help to get fraudulent information permanently removed from credit report and prevent a company from collecting a fraudulent debt.

Minnesota Statutes:
Minn. Stat. §13C.016 (Consumer Security Freeze)
Minn. Stat. §609.527 (Identity Theft)

Federal Statutes:
15 U.S.C. §1601 (Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act,
Fair Credit Billing Act)
15 U.S.C. §1681 (Fair Credit Reporting Act)
18 U.S.C. §1028 (Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act)
18 U.S.C. §1028 (Identity Theft & Assumption Deterrence Act)

 

Submitted by Margaret Henehan1, Judge Nancy C. Dreher Fellow
1Revision of July 2009 Tip of the Month by Erin Soldner

 

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