If you suspect that your personal information has been used by another person to commit fraud or theft, the Minnesota Department of Commerce offers these tips to prevent more fraud from happening and to begin repairing your good name.
After identity theft occurs, it's critical to document all conversations and correspondence with the companies and agencies helping to reestablish your personal information. Steps to repair your personal information may vary depending on what crime occurred, but in most cases there are three basic steps to take:
Contact the fraud departments of the three major credit bureaus. Tell them that you're an identity theft victim, and request a "fraud alert" on your file. Ask creditors to call you before approving any new accounts or changing your existing accounts.
Ask the bureaus for a copy of your credit report, which is usually free if the report is inaccurate due to fraud. Check the area that lists "inquiries," and if loan or credit requests appear that you did not make, ask that those inquiries be removed. Order new reports in a few months to be sure that the information was removed, because it can negatively affect your credit score.
Contact the credit card companies for any accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently. Speak with someone in the security or fraud department of each creditor, and also notify them with a letter. Immediately close accounts that have been tampered with and open new accounts with new PINs and passwords.
File a report with your local police or the police in the community where the identity theft took place. Be sure to obtain a copy of the police report in case the bank, credit card company or others need proof of the crime. Even if the police can't find the identity thief, having a copy of the police report will be helpful when dealing with creditors.
Additional steps may be required depending on what sort of identity theft occurred. Following are steps to take in different circumstances:
Stolen mail. If an identity thief has stolen your mail to get new credit cards, bank and credit card statements, pre-screened credit offers or tax information, or if an identity thief has falsified change-of-address forms, that's a crime. Report it to your local postal inspector. Contact your local post office for the phone number for the nearest postal inspection service office or check the Postal Service web site at www.usps.gov/websites/depart/inspect.
Change of address on credit card accounts. If an identity thief has changed the billing address on an existing credit card account, close the account. When you open a new account, ask that a password be required before any inquiries or changes can be made on the account. Avoid using easily available information like your mother's maiden name, your birth date, the last four digits of your Social Security Number or your phone number, or a series of consecutive numbers. Avoid using the same information and numbers when you create a PIN for accounts.
Bank accounts. If you have reason to believe that an identity thief has tampered with your bank accounts, checks or ATM card, close the accounts immediately. When you open new accounts, insist on password-only access to minimize the chance that an identity thief can violate the accounts.
In addition, if your checks have been stolen or misused, stop payment. If your ATM card has been lost or stolen, cancel the card immediately and get a new account with a new PIN.
Investments. If you believe that an identity thief has tampered with your securities investments or a brokerage account, immediately report it to your broker or account manager and to the Securities and Exchange Commission. You can file a complaint with the SEC by visiting the Complaint Center at www.sec.gov/complaint.shtml. Or, write to: SEC Office of Investor Education and Assistance, 450 Fifth Street, NW, Washington, DC 20549-0213, or call 202-942-7040. Be sure to include as much detail as possible and keep copies of complaints and documents you submit.
Phone service. If an identity thief has established new phone service in your name, or is making unauthorized calls that seem to come from and are billed to your cellular phone, or is using your calling card and PIN, contact your service provider immediately to cancel the account and/or calling card. Open new accounts and choose new PINs. If you are having trouble getting fraudulent phone charges removed from your account, contact the Minnesota Public Utility Commission for local service providers or the Federal Communications Commission for long-distance service providers and cellular providers at Federal Communications Commission or 1-888-CALL-FCC.
Employment. If you believe someone is using your Social Security Number to apply for a job or to work, that's a crime. Report it to the SSA's Fraud Hotline at 1-800-269-0271. Also call SSA at 1-800-772-1213 to verify the accuracy of the earnings reported on your SSN, and to request a copy of your Social Security Statement. Follow up your calls in writing.
Under certain circumstances, the Social Security Administration may issue you a new SSN at your request if, after trying to resolve the problems brought on by identity theft, you continue to experience problems. Consider this option carefully, as a new SSN may not resolve your identity theft problems, and may actually create new problems.
Driver's license. If you suspect that your name or SSN is being used by an identity thief to get a driver's license or a non-driver's ID card, contact the Minnesota Department of Motor Vehicles at 651-296-6911 or 651-282-6555 TDD/TTY.
The Federal Trade Commission collects complaints about identity theft from consumers who have been victimized. Although the FTC does not have the authority to bring criminal cases, the commission can help victims of identity theft by providing information to assist them in resolving the financial and other problems that can result from this crime. The FTC also refers victim complaints to other appropriate government agencies and private organizations for further action.
Other agencies and organizations also are working to combat identity theft. If specific institutions and companies are not being responsive to your questions and complaints, you also may want to contact the government agencies with jurisdiction over those companies.
For more information, or if you've been a victim of identity theft and need to file a complaint, contact the FTC: by telephone, call the Identity Theft Hotline at 1-877-IDTHEFT (438-4338); TDD: 202-326-2502; by mail, write to Identity Theft Clearinghouse, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20580; or online, go to http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/.