ID Theft by the US Gov by bigart


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                 LISTEN TO THESE CONSUMERS               ...

    Someone used my Social Security number to get credit in
    my name. This has caused a lot of problems. I have been
    turned down for jobs, credit, and refinancing offers. This
    is stressful and embarrassing. I want to open my own
    business, but it may be impossible with this unresolved
    problem hanging over my head.

                  From a consumer complaint to the FTC, May 18, 1999

    Someone is using my name and Social Security number to open credit
    card accounts. All the accounts are in collections. I had no idea this
    was happening until I applied for a mortgage. Because these “bad”
    accounts showed up on my credit report, I didn’t get the mortgage.

                  From a consumer complaint to the FTC, July 13, 1999

    Help! Someone is using my Social Security
    number to get a job.

                  From a consumer complaint to the FTC, September 20, 1999

    My elderly parents are victims of credit fraud.
    We don’t know what to do. Someone applied for
    credit cards in their name and charged nearly
    $20,000. Two of the card companies have
    cleared my parents’s name, but the third has
    turned the account over to a collection agency.
    The agency doesn’t believe Mom and Dad didn’t
    authorize the account. What can we do to stop
    the debt collector?

                  From a consumer complaint to the FTC, October 7, 1999

Table of Contents
Introduction ................................................................................. 1

How Identity Theft Occurs ............................................................ 2
Minimize Your Risk ...................................................................... 3
Choosing to Share Personal Information – or Not .......................... 5
  Credit Bureaus......................................................................... 5
  Departments of Motor Vehicles ................................................. 6
  Direct Marketers ...................................................................... 6
If You’re a Victim ......................................................................... 7
   Your First Three Steps............................................................... 7
   Your Next Steps ....................................................................... 8
Where There’s Help ................................................................... 11
 Federal Clearinghouse for Consumer Complaints .................... 11
 Federal Laws ......................................................................... 11
 State Laws ............................................................................. 12
Resolving Credit Problems .......................................................... 14
  Credit Reports ....................................................................... 14
  Credit Cards ......................................................................... 16
  Debt Collectors ...................................................................... 17
  ATM Cards, Debit Cards and Electronic Fund Transfers ............ 17
Resources .................................................................................. 19
  Federal Government .............................................................. 19
  State and Local Governments ................................................. 22
  Credit Bureaus....................................................................... 22


     n the course of a busy day,
    you may write a check at the
    grocery store, charge tickets
to a ball game, rent a car, mail
your tax returns, call home on
your cell phone, order new
checks or apply for a credit card.
Chances are you don’t give these
everyday transactions a second
thought. But someone else may.
    The 1990’s spawned a new
variety of crooks called identity
thieves. Their stock in trade are                                                                   €
your everyday transactions. Each
transaction requires you to share
personal information: your bank
and credit card account numbers;
your income; your Social Secu-
rity number (SSN); and your
name, address and phone num-
bers. An identity thief co-opts
some piece of your personal
information and appropriates it
without your knowledge to
commit fraud or theft. An all-
too-common example is when an
identity thief uses your personal
information to open a credit card
account in your name.
    Can you completely prevent       Commission to provide informa-          The FTC, working in con-
identity theft from occurring?       tion to consumers about identity     junction with other government
Probably not, especially if          theft and to take complaints from    agencies, has produced this
someone is determined to             those whose identities have been     booklet to help you guard against
commit the crime. But you can        stolen. If you’ve been a victim of   and recover from identity theft.
minimize your risk by managing       identity theft, you can call the
your personal information            FTC’s Identity Theft Hotline
wisely, cautiously and with          toll-free at 1-877-IDTHEFT
heightened sensitivity.              (438-4338). The FTC puts your
    The Congress of the United       information into a secure con-
States asked the Federal Trade       sumer fraud database and may,
                                     in appropriate instances, share it
                                     with other law enforcement
                                     agencies and private entities,
                                     including any companies about
                                     which you may complain.

How Identity Theft Occurs

          espite your best efforts
          to manage the flow of       How identity thieves get your         How identity thieves use
          your personal informa-      personal information:                 your personal information:
tion or to keep it to yourself,
                                      They steal wallets and purses         They call your credit card
skilled identity thieves may use a
                                        containing your identification        issuer and, pretending to be
variety of methods – low- and hi-                                             you, ask to change the
                                        and credit and bank cards.
tech – to gain access to your data.                                           mailing address on your
Here are some of the ways                                                     credit card account. The
                                      They steal your mail, including
imposters can get your personal         your bank and credit card             imposter then runs up
information and take over your          statements, pre-approved              charges on your account.
identity.                               credit offers, telephone calling      Because your bills are being
                                        cards and tax information.            sent to the new address, it
                                                                              may take some time before
                                      They complete a “change of              you realize there’s a prob-
                                        address form” to divert your          lem.
                                        mail to another location.
                                                                            They open a new credit card
                                      They rummage through your               account, using your name,
                                        trash, or the trash of busi-          date of birth and SSN.
                                        nesses, for personal data in a        When they use the credit
                                        practice known as “dumpster           card and don’t pay the bills,
                                        diving.”                              the delinquent account is
                                                                              reported on your credit
                                      They fraudulently obtain your           report.
                                        credit report by posing as a
                                        landlord, employer or some-         They establish phone or
                                        one else who may have a               wireless service in your
                                        legitimate need for – and a           name.
                                        legal right to – the information.
                                                                            They open a bank account in
                                      They get your business or person-       your name and write bad
                                        nel records at work.                  checks on that account.

                                      They find personal information in     They file for bankruptcy under
                                        your home.                            your name to avoid paying
                                                                              debts they’ve incurred under
                                      They use personal information           your name, or to avoid
                                        you share on the Internet.            eviction.

                                      They buy your personal infor-         They counterfeit checks or
                                        mation from “inside” sources.         debit cards, and drain your
                                        For example, an identity thief        bank account.
                                        may pay a store employee
                                        for information about you           They buy cars by taking out
                                                                              auto loans in your name.
                                        that appears on an applica-
                                        tion for goods, services or

    Minimize Your Risk

           hile you probably
           can’t prevent identity
           theft entirely, you can
minimize your risk. By manag-
ing your personal information
wisely, cautiously and with an
awareness of the issue, you can
help guard against identity theft:

• Before you reveal any person-
  ally identifying information,
  find out how it will be used
  and whether it will be shared
  with others. Ask if you have a
  choice about the use of your
  information: can you choose
  to have it kept confidential?

• Pay attention to your billing
  cycles. Follow up with credi-
  tors if your bills don’t arrive
  on time. A missing credit card
  bill could mean an identity
  thief has taken over your            available information like your         cial account numbers and other
  credit card account and              mother’s maiden name, your              identifying information. Legiti-
  changed your billing address         birth date, the last four digits of     mate organizations with whom
  to cover his tracks.                 your SSN or your phone                  you do business have the
                                       number, or a series of consecu-         information they need and will
• Guard your mail from theft.          tive numbers.                           not ask you for it.
  Deposit outgoing mail in post
  office collection boxes or at      • Minimize the identification           • Keep items with personal
  your local post office.              information and the number of           information in a safe place. To
  Promptly remove mail from            cards you carry to what you’ll          thwart an identity thief who
  your mailbox after it has been       actually need.                          may pick through your trash or
  delivered. If you’re planning to                                             recycling bins to capture your
  be away from home and can’t        • Do not give out personal                personal information, tear or
  pick up your mail, call the U.S.     information on the phone,               shred your charge receipts,
  Postal Service at                    through the mail or over the            copies of credit applications,
  1-800-275-8777 to request a          Internet unless you have                insurance forms, physician
  vacation hold. The Postal            initiated the contact or know           statements, bank checks and
  Service will hold your mail at       who you’re dealing with.                statements that you are dis-
  your local post office until you     Identity thieves may pose as            carding, expired charge cards
  can pick it up.                      representatives of banks,               and credit offers you get in the
                                       Internet service providers and          mail.
• Put passwords on your credit         even government agencies to
  card, bank and phone ac-             get you to reveal your SSN,           • Be cautious about where you
  counts. Avoid using easily           mother’s maiden name, finan-            leave personal information in

                                                                      your home, especially if you
 A SPECIAL WORD ABOUT SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBERS                         have roommates, employ
Your employer and financial         • How will my SSN be              outside help or are having
institution will likely need your     used?                           service work done in your
SSN for wage and tax report-                                          home.
ing purposes. Other private         • What law requires me to
businesses may ask you for            give you my SSN?              • Find out who has access to
your SSN to do a credit check,                                        your personal information at
such as when you apply for a        • What will happen if I don’t     work and verify that the
car loan. Sometimes, however,         give you my SSN?                records are kept in a secure
they simply want your SSN for                                         location.
general record keeping. You         Sometimes a business may
don’t have to give a business       not provide you with the        • Give your SSN only when
your SSN just because they          service or benefit you’re         absolutely necessary. Ask to
ask for it. If someone asks for     seeking if you don’t provide      use other types of identifiers
your SSN, ask the following         your SSN. Getting answers to      when possible.
questions:                          these questions will help you
                                    decide whether you want to      • Don’t carry your SSN card;
• Why do you need my SSN?           share your SSN with the           leave it in a secure place.
                                    business. Remember, though,
                                    that the decision is yours.
                                                                    • Order a copy of your credit
                                                                      report from each of the three
                                                                      major credit reporting agen-
                                                                      cies every year. Make sure it is
                        CREDIT BUREAUS                                accurate and includes only
                                                                      those activities you’ve autho-
Equifax –                                             rized. The law allows credit
To order your report, call: 800-685-1111 or write:                    bureaus to charge you up to
P Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241                                  $8.50 for a copy of your credit
To report fraud, call: 800-525-6285 and write:                        report.
P Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
                                                                        Your credit report contains
Experian –                                         information on where you work
To order your report, call: 888-EXPERIAN (397-3742) or              and live, the credit accounts that
write: P Box 949, Allen TX 75013-0949                               have been opened in your name,
To report fraud, call: 888-EXPERIAN (397-3742) and write:
                                                                    how you pay your bills and
P Box 949, Allen TX 75013-0949
                                                                    whether you’ve been sued,
                                                                    arrested or filed for bankruptcy.
Trans Union –
                                                                    Checking your report on a
To order your report, call: 800-916-8800 or write:
P Box 1000, Chester, PA 19022
 .O.                                                                regular basis can help you catch
To report fraud, call: 800-680-7289 and write:                      mistakes and fraud before they
Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P Box 6790, Fullerton,
                                   .O.                              wreak havoc on your personal
CA 92834                                                            finances. See “Credit Reports” on
                                                                    page 14 for details about remov-
                                                                    ing fraudulent and inaccurate
                                                                    information from your credit

Choosing to Share Your
Personal Information – or Not

                                     23 7

                                      237 287
            hat happens to the                   VU
            personal information            PQ

            you provide to com-
panies, marketers and govern-
ment agencies? They may use
your information just to process
your order. They may use it to
create a profile about you and
then let you know about prod-
ucts, services or promotions. Or
they may share your information
with others. More organizations
are offering consumers choices
about how their personal infor-
mation is used. For example,
many let you “opt out” of having
your information shared with
others or used for promotional
    You can learn more about the
choices you have to protect your
personal information from credit
bureaus, state Departments of
Motor Vehicles and direct

Credit Bureaus
Pre-Screened Credit Offers
If you receive pre-screened
credit card offers in the mail
(namely, those based upon your
credit data), but don’t tear them
up after you decide you don’t
want to accept the offer, identity
thieves may retrieve the offers
for their own use without your

   To opt out of receiving pre-      Direct Marketers
screened credit card offers, call:   The Direct Marketing
1-888-5-OPTOUT (1-888-567-           Association’s (DMA) Mail,
8688). The three major credit        E-mail and Telephone Preference
bureaus use the same toll-free       Services allow consumers to opt
number to let consumers choose       out of direct mail marketing,
not to receive pre-screened          e-mail marketing and/or
credit offers.                       telemarketing solicitations from
Marketing Lists                      many national companies.
                                     Because your name will not be
Of the three major credit bu-        on their lists, it also means that
reaus, only Experian offers          these companies can’t rent or
consumers the opportunity to         sell your name to other compa-
have their names removed from        nies.
lists that are used for marketing
and promotional purposes. To         To remove your name from
have your name removed from          many national direct mail lists,
Experian’s marketing lists, call     write:

Departments of                       DMA Mail Preference Service
                                     P.O. Box 9008
Motor Vehicles
                                     Farmingdale, NY 11735-9008
Take a look at your driver’s
license. All the personal infor-     To remove your e-mail address
mation on it – and more – is on      from many national direct e-mail
file with your state Department      lists, visit
of Motor Vehicles (DMV). A
state DMV may distribute your        To avoid unwanted phone calls
personal information for law         from many national marketers,
enforcement, driver safety or        send your name, address, and
insurance underwriting purposes,     telephone number to:
but you may have the right to
choose not to have the DMV           DMA Telephone
distribute your personal informa-      Preference Service
tion for other purposes, including   P.O. Box 9014
for direct marketing.                Farmingdale, NY 11735-9014
    Not every DMV distributes
personal information for direct      For more information, visit
marketing or other purposes. You
may be able to opt out if your
state DMV distributes personal
information for these purposes.
Contact your state DMV for
more information.

If You’re a Victim

       ometimes an identity thief
       can strike even if you’ve
       been very careful about
keeping your personal informa-
tion to yourself. If you suspect
that your personal information
has been hijacked and misappro-
priated to commit fraud or theft,
take action immediately, and
keep a record of your conversa-
tions and correspondence. You
may want to use the form on page
10. Exactly which steps you
should take to protect yourself
depends on your circumstances
and how your identity has been
misused. However, three basic
actions are appropriate in almost
every case.

Your First Three Steps
First, contact the fraud depart-
ments of each of the three
major credit bureaus.
     Tell them that you’re an
identity theft victim. Request
that a “fraud alert” be placed in
your file, as well as a victim’s
statement asking that creditors
call you before opening any new
accounts or changing your
existing accounts. This can help
prevent an identity thief from
opening additional accounts in
your name.
     At the same time, order
copies of your credit reports from
the credit bureaus. Credit bureaus
must give you a free copy of your
report if your report is inaccurate
because of fraud, and you request
it in writing. Review your reports
carefully to make sure no addi-
tional fraudulent accounts have
been opened in your name or
unauthorized changes made to
your existing accounts. Also,
check the section of your report

that lists “inquiries.” Where         card company or others need            consecutive numbers. Avoid
“inquiries” appear from the           proof of the crime. Even if the        using the same information and
company(ies) that opened the          police can’t catch the identity        numbers when you create a
fraudulent account(s), request        thief in your case, having a copy      PIN.
that these “inquiries” be removed     of the police report can help you
from your report. (See “Credit        when dealing with creditors.         • Bank accounts. If you have
Reports” on page 14 for more                                                 reason to believe that an
information.) In a few months,        Your Next Steps                        identity thief has tampered
order new copies of your reports      Although there’s no question           with your bank accounts,
to verify your corrections and        that identity thieves can wreak        checks or ATM card, close the
changes, and to make sure no          havoc on your personal finances,       accounts immediately. When
new fraudulent activity has           there are some things you can do       you open new accounts, insist
occurred.                             to take control of the situation.      on password-only access to
    Second, contact the credi-        For example:                           minimize the chance that an
tors for any accounts that have                                              identity thief can violate the
been tampered with or opened          • Stolen mail. If an identity          accounts.
fraudulently.                           thief has stolen your mail to
    Creditors can include credit        get new credit cards, bank and       In addition, if your checks
card companies, phone compa-            credit card statements, pre-         have been stolen or misused,
nies and other utilities, and           screened credit offers or tax        stop payment. Also contact
banks and other lenders. Ask to         information, or if an identity       the major check verification
speak with someone in the               thief has falsified change-of-       companies to request that they
security or fraud department of         address forms, that’s a crime.       notify retailers using their
each creditor, and follow up with       Report it to your local postal       databases not to accept these
a letter. It’s particularly impor-      inspector. Contact your local        checks, or ask your bank to
tant to notify credit card compa-       post office for the phone            notify the check verification
nies in writing because that’s the      number for the nearest postal        service with which it does
consumer protection procedure           inspection service office or         business.
the law spells out for resolving        check the Postal Service web
errors on credit card billing           site at                National Check Fraud Service:
statements. Immediately close           websites/depart/inspect              1-843-571-2143
accounts that have been tampered                                             SCAN: 1-800-262-7771
with and open new ones with new       • Change of address on credit          TeleCheck: 1-800-710-9898 or
Personal Identification Numbers         card accounts. If you dis-           927-0188
(PINs) and passwords. Here              cover that an identity thief has     CrossCheck: 1-707-586-0551
again, avoid using easily avail-        changed the billing address on       Equifax Check Systems:
able information like your              an existing credit card ac-          1-800-437-5120
mother’s maiden name, your              count, close the account.            International Check Services:
birth date, the last four digits of     When you open a new ac-              1-800-526-5380
your SSN or your phone number,          count, ask that a password be
or a series of consecutive num-         used before any inquiries or         If your ATM card has been
bers.                                   changes can be made on the           lost, stolen or otherwise
    Third, file a report with           account. Avoid using easily          compromised, cancel the card
your local police or the police         available information like           as soon as you can and get
in the community where the              your mother’s maiden name,           another with a new PIN.
identity theft took place.              your birth date, the last four
    Get a copy of the police            digits of your SSN or your         • Investments. If you believe
report in case the bank, credit         phone number, or a series of         that an identity thief has

     tampered with your securities    • Driver’s license. If you
     investments or a brokerage         suspect that your name or SSN        SHOULD I APPLY FOR A
     account, immediately report it     is being used by an identity         NEW SOCIAL SECURITY
     to your broker or account          thief to get a driver’s license or        NUMBER?
     manager and to the Securities      a non-driver’s ID card, contact
     and Exchange Commission.           your Department of Motor             Under certain circum-
                                        Vehicles. If your state uses         stances, SSA may assign
• Phone service. If an identity         your SSN as your driver’s            you a new SSN – at your
  thief has established new             license number, ask to substi-       request – if, after trying to
  phone service in your name; is        tute another number.                 resolve the problems
  making unauthorized calls that                                             brought on by identity
  seem to come from – and are         • Bankruptcy. If you believe           theft, you continue to
  billed to – your cellular phone;      someone has filed for bank-          experience problems.
  or is using your calling card         ruptcy using your name, write        Consider this option
  and PIN, contact your service         to the U.S. Trustee in the           carefully. A new SSN may
  provider immediately to               Region where the bankruptcy          not resolve your identity
  cancel the account and/or             was filed. A listing of the U.S.     theft problems, and may
  calling card. Open new                Trustee Program’s Regions            actually create new prob-
  accounts and choose new               can be found at                      lems. For example, a new
                              , or look in        SSN does not necessarily
                                                                             ensure a new credit
                                        the Blue Pages of your phone
                                                                             record because credit
     If you are having trouble          book under U.S. Government
                                                                             bureaus may combine the
     getting fraudulent phone           – Bankruptcy Administration.
                                                                             credit records from your
     charges removed from your                                               old SSN with those from
     account, contact your state        Your letter should describe the      your new SSN. Even when
     Public Utility Commission for      situation and provide proof of       the old credit information
     local service providers or the     your identity. The U.S.              is not associated with your
     Federal Communications             Trustee, if appropriate, will        new SSN, the absence of
     Commission for long-distance       make a referral to criminal law      any credit history under
     service providers and cellular     enforcement authorities if you       your new SSN may make
     providers at      provide appropriate documen-         it more difficult for you to
     enforce/complaints.html or         tation to substantiate your          get credit. And finally,
     1-888-CALL-FCC.                    claim. You also may want to          there’s no guarantee that
                                        file a complaint with the U.S.       a new SSN wouldn’t also
• Employment. If you believe            Attorney and/or the FBI in the       be misused by an identity
  someone is using your SSN to          city where the bankruptcy was        thief.
  apply for a job or to work,           filed.
  that’s a crime. Report it to the
  SSA’s Fraud Hotline at 1-800-       • Criminal records/arrests. In         rested. If this happens to you,
  269-0271. Also call SSA at 1-         rare instances, an identity thief    you may need to hire an
  800-772-1213 to verify the            may create a criminal record         attorney to help resolve the
  accuracy of the earnings              under your name. For ex-             problem. The procedures for
  reported on your SSN, and to          ample, your imposter may give        clearing your name vary by
  request a copy of your Social         your name when being ar-             jurisdiction.
  Security Statement. Follow up
  your calls in writing.

     Chart Your Course of Action
     Use this form to record the steps you’ve taken to report the fraudulent use of your identity. Keep this list in a safe place for reference.

     Credit Bureaus — Report Fraud
                                         D ate
      B u rea u        Phone N umber                    C ontact Person                 C omments
                                         C ontacted

      Equifax          1-800-525-6285
      Experian         1-888-397-3742
     Trans Union 1-800-680-7289

     Banks, Credit Card Issuers and Other Creditors (Contact each creditor promptly to protect your legal rights.)

     Cre ditor               Addre s s and Phone Numbe r                   Contact Pe rs on       Comme nts
                                                                Contacte d

     Law Enforcement Authorities — Report Identity Theft

                                                D ate
      A gency/D ept.         Phone N umber                 C ontact Person            R eport N umber       C omments
                                                C ontacted
      Federal Trade         1-877-IDTHEFT

      Local Police
Where There’s Help...

        he FTC collects com-
        plaints 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 informa-
tion 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.
    If you’ve been a victim of
identity theft, file a complaint
with the FTC by contacting the
FTC’s Identity Theft Hotline by
telephone: toll-free 1-877-
IDTHEFT (438-4338); TDD:
202-326-2502; by mail: Identity
Theft Clearinghouse, Federal
Trade Commission, 600 Pennsyl-         Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence
vania Avenue, NW, Washington,                          Act of 1998
DC 20580; or online:               The Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act
    Other agencies and organiza-       makes it a federal crime when someone:
tions also are working to combat
identity theft. If specific institu-     “knowingly transfers or uses, without lawful
tions and companies are not              authority, a means of identification of another
being responsive to your ques-           person with the intent to commit, or to aid or
tions and complaints, you also           abet, any unlawful activity that constitutes a
may want to contact the govern-          violation of federal law, or that constitutes a
ment agencies with jurisdiction          felony under any applicable state or local law.”
over those companies. They are
listed in the Resources section of     Note that under the Act, a name or SSN is consid-
this booklet on page 19.               ered a “means of identification.” So is a credit card
                                       number, cellular telephone electronic serial number
Federal Laws                           or any other piece of information that may be used
                                       alone or in conjunction with other information to
The Federal government and
                                       identify a specific individual.
numerous states have passed

laws that address the problem of     State Laws                            Iowa
identity theft.                      Many states have passed laws          Iowa Code § 715A.8
    The Identity Theft and           related to identity theft; others     Kansas
Assumption Deterrence Act,           may be considering such legisla-      Kan. Stat. Ann. § 21-4108
enacted by Congress in October       tion. Where specific identity theft   Kentucky
1998 (and codified, in part, at 18   laws do not exist, the practices      Rev. Stat. Ann. § 160, ch. 514
U.S.C. §1028) is the federal law     may be prohibited under other
directed at identity theft. (See                                           Louisiana
                                     laws. Contact your State Attor-
box on page 11.)                                                           La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 67.16
                                     ney General’s office or local
    Violations of the Act are        consumer protection agency to         Maine
investigated by federal law          find out whether your state has       Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 17-A,
enforcement agencies, including      laws related to identity theft, or    § 354-2A
the U.S. Secret Service, the FBI,    visit        Maryland
the U.S. Postal Inspection               State laws that had been          Md. Ann. Code art. 27 § 231
Service and SSA’s Office of the      enacted at the time of this
Inspector General. Federal                                                 Massachusetts
                                     booklet’s publication are listed
identity theft cases are pros-                                             Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 266 § 37E
ecuted by the U.S. Department                                              Minnesota
of Justice.                                                                Minn. Stat. Ann. § 609.527
    In most instances, a convic-     Alaska
                                     2000 Alaska Sess. Laws 65             Mississippi
tion for identity theft carries a                                          Miss. Code Ann. § 97-19-85
maximum penalty of 15 years          Arizona
imprisonment, a fine and forfei-     Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 13-2008            Missouri
ture of any personal property                                              Mo. Rev. Stat. § 570.223
used or intended to be used to       Ark. Code Ann. § 5-37-227             Nevada
commit the crime. The Act also                                             Nev. Rev. Stat. § 205.465
directs the U.S. Sentencing                                                New Hampshire
                                     Cal. Penal Code § 530.5
Commission to review and                                                   N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 638:26
amend the federal sentencing         Colorado
                                     2000 Colo. Legis. Serv. ch. 159       New Jersey
guidelines to provide appropriate
                                     (May 19, 2000)                        N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:21-17
penalties for those persons
convicted of identity theft.         Connecticut                           North Carolina
    Schemes to commit identity       1999 Conn. Acts 99                    N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-113.20
theft or fraud also may involve      Delaware                              North Dakota
violations of other statutes, such   72 Del. Laws 297 (2000)               N.D.C.C. § 12.1-23-11
as credit card fraud; computer                                             Ohio
fraud; mail fraud; wire fraud;       Florida
                                     Fla. Stat. Ann. § 817.568             Ohio Rev. Code Ann. 2913.49
financial institution fraud; or
Social Security fraud. Each of       Georgia                               Oklahoma
these federal offenses is a felony   Ga. Code Ann. §§ 16-9-121             Okla. Stat. tit. 21, § 1533.1
and carries substantial penalties    Idaho                                 Oregon
– in some cases, as high as 30       Idaho Code § 18-3126                  Or. Rev. Stat. § 165.800
years in prison, fines and crimi-                                          Pennsylvania
nal forfeiture.                                                            Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 4120
                                     720 ILCS 5/16G
                                     Indiana                               Rhode Island
                                     Ind. Code § 35-43-5-4 (2000)          R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-49.1-1

South Carolina
S.C. Code Ann. § 16-13-500, 501
South Dakota
S.D. Codified Laws
§ 22-30A-3.1.
Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-14-150
Tex. Penal Code § 32.51
Utah Code Ann.
§ 76-6-1101-1104
Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-186.3
Wash. Rev. Code § 9.35.020
West Virginia
W. Va. Code § 61-3-54
Wis. Stat. § 943.201
Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 6-3-901

Resolving Credit Problems

         esolving credit problems
         resulting from identity
         theft can be time-con-
suming and frustrating. The good
news is that there are federal
laws that establish procedures
for correcting credit report errors
and billing errors, and for
stopping debt collectors from
contacting you about debts you
don’t owe.
    Here is a brief summary of
your rights, and what to do to
clear up credit problems that
result from identity theft.

Credit Reports
The Fair Credit Reporting Act
(FCRA) establishes procedures
for correcting mistakes on your
credit record and requires that
your record be made available
only for certain legitimate
business needs.
    Under the FCRA, both the
credit bureau and the organiza-
tion that provided the informa-
tion to the credit bureau (the
“information provider”), such as
a bank or credit card company,
are responsible for correcting
inaccurate or incomplete infor-
mation in your report. To protect
your rights under the law, con-
tact both the credit bureau and
the information provider.
    First, call the credit bureau
and follow up in writing. Tell
them what information you
believe is inaccurate. Include
copies (NOT originals) of
documents that support your
position. In addition to providing
your complete name and ad-
dress, your letter should clearly
identify each item in your report
that you dispute, give the facts
and explain why you dispute the

information, and request deletion
                                                 SAMPLE DISPUTE LETTER — CREDIT BUREAU
or correction. You may want to
enclose a copy of your report
with circles around the items in          Date
question. Your letter may look
something like the sample at              Your Name
right. Send your letter by certified      Your Address
mail, and request a return receipt        Your City, State, Zip Code
so you can document what the
credit bureau received and when.          Complaint Department
Keep copies of your dispute letter        Name of Credit Bureau
and enclosures.                           Address
     Credit bureaus must investi-         City, State, Zip Code
gate the items in question –
usually within 30 days – unless           Dear Sir or Madam:
they consider your dispute
frivolous. They also must forward         I am writing to dispute the following information in my
all relevant data you provide             file. The items I dispute also are circled on the attached
about the dispute to the informa-         copy of the report I received. (Identify item(s) disputed by
tion provider. After the informa-         name of source, such as creditors or tax court, and
tion provider receives notice of a        identify type of item, such as credit account, judgment,
dispute from the credit bureau, it        etc.)
must investigate, review all
relevant information provided by          This item is (inaccurate or incomplete) because (describe
the credit bureau and report the          what is inaccurate or incomplete and why). I am request-
                                          ing that the item be deleted (or request another specific
results to the credit bureau. If the
                                          change) to correct the information.
information provider finds the
disputed information to be
                                          Enclosed are copies of (use this sentence if applicable
inaccurate, it must notify any            and describe any enclosed documentation, such as
nationwide credit bureau that it          payment records, court documents) supporting my
reports to so that the credit             position. Please investigate this (these) matter(s) and
bureaus can correct this informa-         (delete or correct) the disputed item(s) as soon as pos-
tion in your file. Note that:             sible.

• Disputed information that               Sincerely,
  cannot be verified must be              Your name
  deleted from your file.
                                          Enclosures: (List what you are enclosing.)
• If your report contains errone-
  ous information, the credit
  bureau must correct it.
                                         quent, the credit bureau must        When the investigation is
• If an item is incomplete, the          show that you’re current.        complete, the credit bureau must
  credit bureau must complete it.                                         give you the written results and a
  For example, if your file shows      • If your file shows an account    free copy of your report if the
  that you have been late making         that belongs to someone else,    dispute results in a change. If an
  payments, but fails to show            the credit bureau must           item is changed or removed, the
  that you are no longer delin-          delete it.                       credit bureau cannot put the

disputed information back in
                                           SAMPLE DISPUTE LETTER — CREDIT CARD ISSUERS
your file unless the information
provider verifies its accuracy and     Date
completeness, and the credit
bureau gives you a written notice      Your Name
that includes the name, address        Your Address
and phone number of the infor-         Your City, State, Zip Code
mation provider.                       Your Account Number
    If you request, the credit
bureau must send notices of            Name of Creditor
corrections to anyone who              Billing Inquiries
received your report in the past       Address
six months. Job applicants can         City, State, Zip Code
have a corrected copy of their
report sent to anyone who              Dear Sir or Madam:
received a copy during the past
two years for employment               I am writing to dispute a billing error in the amount of
purposes. If an investigation          $______on my account. The amount is inaccurate because
does not resolve your dispute,         (describe the problem). I am requesting that the error be
ask the credit bureau to include       corrected, that any finance and other charges related to
your statement of the dispute in       the disputed amount be credited as well, and that I receive
your file and in future reports.       an accurate statement.
    Second, in addition to
writing to the credit bureau, tell     Enclosed are copies of (use this sentence to describe any
                                       enclosed information, such as sales slips, payment records)
the creditor or other information
                                       supporting my position. Please investigate this matter and
provider in writing that you
                                       correct the billing error as soon as possible.
dispute an item. Again, include
copies (NOT originals) of              Sincerely,
documents that support your
position. Many information             Your name
providers specify an address for
disputes. If the information           Enclosures: (List what you are enclosing.)
provider then reports the item to
any credit bureau, it must
include a notice of your dispute.
In addition, if you are correct –    Credit Cards                            To take advantage of the
that is, if the disputed informa-    The Truth in Lending Act limits      law’s consumer protections, you
tion is not accurate – the infor-    your liability for unauthorized      must:
mation provider may not use it       credit card charges in most cases
again. For more information,         to $50 per card. The Fair Credit     • write to the creditor at the
consult How to Dispute Credit        Billing Act establishes proce-         address given for “billing
Report Errors and Fair Credit        dures for resolving billing errors     inquiries,” not the address for
Reporting, two brochures             on your credit card accounts.          sending your payments.
available from the FTC or at             The Act’s settlement proce-        Include your name, address,             dures apply to disputes about          account number and a descrip-
                                     “billing errors.” This includes        tion of the billing error, includ-
                                     fraudulent charges on your             ing the amount and date of the
                                     accounts.                              error. Your letter may look

     something like the sample on
     page 16.                              A SPECIAL WORD ABOUT LOST OR STOLEN CHECKS

• send your letter so that it             While no federal law limits your losses if someone steals
  reaches the creditor within 60          your checks and forges your signature, state laws protect
  days after the first bill contain-      you. Most states hold the bank responsible for losses from
  ing the error was mailed to             a forged check. At the same time, however, most states
  you. If the address on your             require you to take reasonable care of your account. For
  account was changed by an               example, you may be held responsible for the forgery if
  identity thief and you never            you fail to notify the bank in a timely manner that a check
  received the bill, your dispute         was lost or stolen. Contact your state banking or con-
                                          sumer protection agency for more information.
  letter still must reach the
  creditor within 60 days of
  when the creditor would have
  mailed the bill. This is why it’s
  so important to keep track of        from using unfair or deceptive          If you’re a victim of identity
  your billing statements and          practices to collect overdue bills      theft, including a copy (NOT
  immediately follow up when           that a creditor has forwarded for       original) of the police report you
  your bills don’t arrive on time.     collection.                             filed may be particularly useful.
                                           You can stop a debt collector           For more information,
    Send your letter by certified      from contacting you by writing a        consult Fair Debt Collection, a
mail, and request a return re-         letter to the collection agency         brochure available from the FTC
ceipt. This will be your proof of      telling them to stop. Once the debt     or at
the date the creditor received the     collector receives your letter, the     idtheft
letter. Include copies (NOT            company may not contact you
originals) of sales slips or other     again – with two exceptions: they       ATM Cards, Debit Cards
documents that support your            can tell you there will be no           and Electronic Fund
position. Keep a copy of your          further contact and they can tell       Transfers
dispute letter.                        you that the debt collector or the      The Electronic Fund Transfer
    The creditor must acknowl-         creditor intends to take some           Act provides consumer protec-
edge your complaint in writing         specific action.                        tions for transactions involving
within 30 days after receiving it,         A collector also may not            an ATM or debit card or other
unless the problem has been            contact you if, within 30 days          electronic way to debit or credit
resolved. The creditor must            after you receive the written           an account. It also limits your
resolve the dispute within two         notice, you send the collection         liability for unauthorized elec-
billing cycles (but not more than      agency a letter stating you do not      tronic fund transfers.
90 days) after receiving your          owe the money. Although such a              It’s important to report lost or
letter.                                letter should stop the debt             stolen ATM and debit cards
    For more information, see          collector’s calls, it will not neces-   immediately because the amount
Fair Credit Billing and Avoiding       sarily get rid of the debt itself,      you can be held responsible for
Credit and Charge Card Fraud,          which may still turn up on your         depends on how quickly you
two brochures available from the       credit report. In addition, a           report the loss.
FTC or at            collector can renew collection
idtheft                                activities if you are sent proof of     • If you report your ATM card
                                       the debt. So, along with your             lost or stolen within two
Debt Collectors                        letter stating you don’t owe the          business days of discovering
The Fair Debt Collection Prac-         money, include copies of docu-            the loss or theft, your losses
tices Act prohibits debt collectors    ments that support your position.         are limited to $50.

• If you report your ATM card         dispute is returned to your
  lost or stolen after the two        account and you are notified
  business days, but within 60        promptly of the credit. At the end
  days after a statement showing      of the investigation, if no error
  an unauthorized electronic fund     has been found, the institution
  transfer, you can be liable for     may take the money back if it
  up to $500 of what a thief          sends you a written explanation.
  withdraws.                              Note: VISA and MasterCard
                                      voluntarily have agreed to limit
• If you wait more than 60 days, consumers’ liability for unautho-
   you could lose all the money       rized use of their debit cards in
   that was taken from your           most instances to $50 per card,
   account after the end of the 60    no matter how much time has
   days and before you report your elapsed since the discovery of the
   card missing.                      loss or theft of the card.
                                          For more information, consult
    The best way to protect           Electronic Banking and Credit
yourself in the event of an error or and ATM Cards: What to Do If
fraudulent transaction is to call the They’re Lost or Stolen, two
financial institution and follow up brochures available from the
in writing – by certified letter,     FTC or at
return receipt requested – so you     idtheft
can prove when the institution
received your letter. Keep a copy
of the letter you send for your
    After notification about an
error on your statement, the
institution generally has 10
business days to investigate. The
financial institution must tell you
the results of its investigation
within three business days after
completing it and must correct an
error within one business day
after determining that the error
has occurred. If the institution
needs more time, it may take up
to 45 days to complete the investi-
gation – but only if the money in

Federal Government
Federal Trade Commission (FTC) –
The FTC is the federal clearinghouse for complaints by victims of identity theft. Although the FTC does
not have the authority to bring criminal cases, the Commission helps victims of identity theft by provid-
ing them with information to help resolve the financial and other problems that can result from identity
theft. The FTC also may refer victim complaints to other appropriate government agencies and private
organizations for action.
   If you’ve been a victim of identity theft, file a complaint with the FTC by contacting the FTC’s
Identity Theft Hotline by telephone: toll-free 1-877-IDTHEFT (438-4338); TDD: 202-326-2502; by
mail: Identity Theft Clearinghouse, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Wash-
ington, DC 20580; or online:

FTC publications:
• Avoiding Credit and Charge Card Fraud
• Credit and ATM Cards: What to Do If They’re Lost or Stolen
• Credit Card Loss Protection Offers: They’re The Real Steal
• Electronic Banking
• Fair Credit Billing
• Fair Credit Reporting
• Fair Debt Collection
• Getting Purse-onal: What To Do If Your Wallet or Purse Is Stolen
• How to Dispute Credit Report Errors
• Identity Crisis... What to Do If Your Identity Is Stolen
• Identity Thieves Can Ruin Your Good Name: Tips for Avoiding Identity Theft


Banking Agencies
If you’re having trouble getting your financial institution to help you resolve your banking-related
identity theft problems – including problems with bank-issued credit cards – contact the agency
with the appropriate jurisdiction. If you’re not sure which agency has jurisdiction over your
institution, call your bank or visit

Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) –
The FDIC supervises state-chartered banks that are not members of the Federal Reserve System
and insures deposits at banks and savings and loans.
   Call the FDIC Consumer Call Center at 1-800-934-3342; or write: Federal Deposit Insurance
Corporation, Division of Compliance and Consumer Affairs, 550 17th Street, NW, Washington,
DC 20429.
   FDIC publications:
• Classic Cons... And How to Counter Them –
• Pretext Calling and Identity Theft –
• Your Wallet: A Loser’s Manual –
• A Crook Has Drained Your Account. Who Pays? –

Federal Reserve System (Fed) –
The Fed supervises state-chartered banks that are members of the Federal Reserve System.
   Call: 202-452-3693; or write: Division of Consumer and Community Affairs, Mail Stop 801,
Federal Reserve Board, Washington, DC 20551; or contact the Federal Reserve Bank in your area.
The 12 Reserve Banks are located in Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Richmond,
Atlanta, Chicago, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Kansas City, Dallas and San Francisco.

National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) –
The NCUA charters and supervises federal credit unions and insures deposits at federal credit
unions and many state credit unions.
   Call: 703-518-6360; or write: Compliance Officer, National Credit Union Administration,
1775 Duke Street, Alexandria, VA 22314.

Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) –
The OCC charters and supervises national banks. If the word “national” appears in the name of a
bank, or the initials “N.A.” follow its name, the OCC oversees its operations.
   Call: 1-800-613-6743 (business days 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. CST); fax: 713-336-4301; or write:
Customer Assistance Group, 1301 McKinney Street, Suite 3710, Houston, TX 77010.
   OCC publications:
• Check Fraud: A Guide to Avoiding Losses –

Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS) –
The OTS is the primary regulator of all federal and many state-chartered thrift institutions, which
include savings banks and savings and loan institutions.
    Call: 202-906-6000; or write: Office of Thrift Supervision, 1700 G Street, NW, Washington,
DC 20552.

Department of Justice (DOJ) –
The DOJ and its U.S. Attorneys prosecute federal identity theft cases. Information on identity theft is
available at

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) –
The FBI is one of the federal criminal law enforcement agencies that investigates cases of identity theft.
Local field offices are listed in the Blue Pages of your telephone directory.
   FBI publications:
• Protecting Yourself Against Identity Fraud –

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) –
The FCC regulates interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and
cable. The FCC’s Consumer Information Bureau is the consumer’s one-stop source for information,
forms, applications and current issues before the FCC. Call: 1-888-CALL-FCC; TTY: 1-888-TELL-FCC;
or write: Federal Communications Commission, Consumer Information Bureau, 445 12th Street, SW,
Room 5A863, Washington, DC 20554. You can file complaints via the online complaint form at, or e-mail questions to

Internal Revenue Service (IRS) –
The IRS is responsible for administering and enforcing the internal revenue laws. If you believe someone
has assumed your identity to file federal Income Tax Returns, or to commit other tax fraud, call toll-free:
1-800-829-0433. For assistance to victims of identity theft schemes who are having trouble filing their
correct returns, call the IRS Taxpayer Advocates Office, toll-free: 1-877-777-4778.

U.S. Secret Service (USSS) –
The U.S. Secret Service is one of the federal law enforcement agencies that investigates financial crimes,
which may include identity theft. Although the Secret Service generally investigates cases where the dollar
loss is substantial, your information may provide evidence of a larger pattern of fraud requiring their
involvement. Local field offices are listed in the Blue Pages of your telephone directory.
• Financial Crimes Division –
• Frequently Asked Questions: Protecting Yourself

Social Security Administration (SSA) –
SSA may assign you a new SSN – at your request – if you continue to experience problems even after
trying to resolve the problems resulting from identity theft. SSA field office employees work closely with
victims of identity theft and third parties to collect the evidence needed to assign a new SSN in these cases.
    SSA Office of the Inspector General (SSA/OIG) – The SSA/OIG is one of the federal law enforcement
agencies that investigates cases of identity theft.
    Direct allegations that an SSN has been stolen or misused to the SSA Fraud Hotline. Call: 1-800-269-
0271; fax: 410-597-0118; write: SSA Fraud Hotline, P.O. Box 17768, Baltimore, MD 21235; or e-mail:
    SSA publications:
• SSA Fraud Hotline for Reporting Fraud –
• Social Security – When Someone Misuses Your Number (SSA Pub. No. 05-10064)

• Social Security – Your Number and Card (SSA Pub. No. 05-10002)

U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) –
The USPIS is one of the federal law enforcement agencies that investigates cases of identity theft.
USPIS is the law enforcement arm of the U.S. Postal Service. USPIS has primary jurisdiction in all
matters infringing on the integrity of the U.S. mail. You can locate the USPIS district office nearest you
by calling your local post office or checking the list at the web site above.

U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) –
The SEC’s Office of Investor Education and Assistance serves investors who complain to the SEC about
investment fraud or the mishandling of their investments by securities professionals. If you’ve experi-
enced identity theft in connection with a securities transaction, write: SEC, 450 Fifth Street, NW,
Washington, DC, 20549-0213. You also may call 202-942-7040 or send an e-mail to

U. S. Trustee (UST) –
If you believe someone has filed for bankruptcy using your name, write to the U.S. Trustee in the region
where the bankruptcy was filed. A list of the U.S. Trustee’s Regional Offices is available on the UST
web site, or check the Blue Pages of your phone book under U.S. Government – Bankruptcy Adminis-
tration. Your letter should describe the situation and provide proof of your identity. The U.S. Trustee, if
appropriate, will make a criminal referral to criminal law enforcement authorities if you provide appro-
priate documentation to substantiate your claim. You also may want to file a complaint with the U.S.
Attorney and/or the FBI in the city where the bankruptcy was filed.
    The U.S. Trustee does not provide legal representation, legal advice or referrals to lawyers. That
means you may need to hire an attorney to help convince the bankruptcy court that the filing is fraudu-
lent. The U.S. Trustee does not provide consumers with copies of court documents. Those documents are
available from the bankruptcy clerk’s office for a fee.

State and Local Governments
Many states and local governments have passed laws related to identity theft; others may be considering
such legislation. Where specific identity theft laws do not exist, the practices may be prohibited under
other laws. Contact your State Attorney General’s office (for a list of state offices, visit
or local consumer protection agency to find out whether your state has laws related to identity theft, or

Credit Bureaus
Equifax –
To order your report, call: 1-800-685-1111 or write: P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
To report fraud, call: 1-800-525-6285 and write: P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241

Experian –
To order your report, call: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742) or write: P.O. Box 949, Allen TX 75013-0949
To report fraud, call: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742) and write: P.O. Box 949, Allen TX 75013-0949

Trans Union –
To order your report, call: 800-916-8800 or write: P.O. Box 1000, Chester, PA 19022. To report fraud,
call: 1-800-680-7289 and write: Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834

                               Privacy Policy
         When you contact us with complaints or requests for
     information, you can contact us by telephone, toll-free at 1-877-
     ID-THEFT (438-4338); by postal mail: Federal Trade Commission,
     Identity Theft Clearinghouse, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW,
     Washington, DC 20580; or electronically via our online complaint
     form, located at Before you do, there are a
     few things you should know.
         The material you submit may be seen by various people. We
     enter the information you send into our electronic database. This
     information is shared with our attorneys and investigators. It may
     also be shared with employees of various other federal, state, or
     local authorities who may use this data for regulatory or law en-
     forcement purposes. We may also share some information with
     certain private entities, such as credit bureaus and any companies
     you may have complained about, where we believe that doing so
     might assist in resolving identity theft-related problems. You may
     be contacted by the FTC or any of the agencies or private entities to
     whom your complaint has been referred. In other limited circum-
     stances, including requests from Congress, we may be required by
     law to disclose information you submit.
         You have the option to submit your information anonymously.
     However, if you do not provide your name and contact information,
     law enforcement and other entities will not be able to contact you to
     obtain additional information to assist in identity theft investigations
     and prosecutions.

 Toll-free 1.877.IDTHEFT


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