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					Table of Contents
Introduction ................................................................................. 1
How Identity Theft Occurs ............................................................ 3
Minimize Your Risk ...................................................................... 5
  What You Can Do Today ......................................................... 5
  Maintaining Vigilance .............................................................. 5
  The Doors and Windows Are Locked, but .................................. 7
Choosing to Share Personal Information – or Not .......................... 9
  Credit Bureaus ......................................................................... 9
  Department of Motor Vehicles ................................................ 10
  Direct Marketers .................................................................... 10
If You’re a Victim ....................................................................... 11
   Your First Three Steps............................................................. 11
   Credit Accounts ..................................................................... 12
   ATM Cards ............................................................................ 12
   Checks .................................................................................. 12
Chart Your Course of Action ....................................................... 14
Resolving Credit Problems .......................................................... 15
  Credit Reports ....................................................................... 15
  Credit Cards ......................................................................... 17
  Debt Collectors ...................................................................... 18
  ATM Cards, Debit Cards and Electronic Fund Transfers ............ 19
Specific Problems ....................................................................... 21
  Bank Fraud ........................................................................... 21
  Bankruptcy Fraud ................................................................... 21
  Criminal Violations ................................................................ 22
  Fake Driver’s License ............................................................. 22
  Investment Fraud ................................................................... 22
  Mail Theft .............................................................................. 23
  Passport Fraud ....................................................................... 23
  Phone Fraud .......................................................................... 23
  Social Security Number Theft and Misuse ................................ 23
  Tax Fraud .............................................................................. 24
It’s the Law ................................................................................ 25
    Federal Law........................................................................... 25
    State Law .............................................................................. 25
Appendix .................................................................................. 27
  Instructions for Completing the ID Theft Affidavit ...................... 27
  ID Theft Affidavit .................................................................... 29
                      My purse was stolen in December 1990. In February 1991,
                      I started getting notices of bounced checks. About a year
                      later, I received information that someone using my identity
                      had defaulted on a number of lease agreements and
                      bought a car. In 1997, I learned that someone had been
                      working under my Social Security number for a number of
                      years. A man had been arrested and used my SSN on his
                      arrest sheet. There’s a hit in the FBI computers for my SSN
                      with a different name and gender. I can’t get credit because
                      of this situation. I was denied a mortgage loan, employ-
                      ment, credit cards, and medical care for my children. I’ve
                      even had auto insurance denied, medical insurance and
                      tuition assistance denied.

                               From a consumer complaint to the FTC, January 2, 2001

     n the course of a busy day,       curity number (SSN); or your         mation and appropriates it without
    you may write a check at           name, address and phone num-         your knowledge to commit fraud
    the grocery store, charge tick-    bers. An identity thief co-opts      or theft. An all-too-common ex-
ets to a ball game, rent a car, mail   some piece of your personal infor-   ample is when an identity thief uses
your tax returns, call home on                                                         your personal information
your cell phone, order                                                                  to open a credit card ac-
new checks or apply                                                                      count in your name.
for a credit card.                                                                              Identity theft is a
Chances are                                                                                 serious crime.
you don’t                                                                                     People whose
give these                                                                                     identities have
everyday                                                                                       been stolen can
transac-                                                                                     spend months or
tions a sec-                                                                                years – and thou-
ond thought.                                                                                   sands of dollars –
But someone                                                                     Ad                cleaning up the
else may.                                                                              On
                                                                                          e       mess the
    The 1990’s                                                                                    thieves have
spawned a new                                                                                    made of their
variety of crooks                                                                                good name and
called identity                                                                                 credit record. In
thieves. Their stock in trade                                                                 the meantime,
is your everyday transac-                                                                  victims may lose job
tion. Each transaction re-                                                              opportunities, be
quires you to share per-                                                                  refused loans for
sonal information:                                                                           education, housing,
your bank and                                                                                cars, or even be
credit card ac-                                                                              arrested for crimes
count numbers;                                                                               they didn’t commit.
your income;                                                                                 Humiliation, anger
your Social Se-                                                                               and frustration are

common feelings victims experi-                                             plaint and advise you on how to
ence as they navigate the ardu-                                             deal with the credit-related
ous process of reclaiming their                                             problems that could result. In
identity.                                                                   addition, the FTC, in conjunction
    Perhaps you’ve received your                                            with banks, credit grantors and
first call from a collections agent                                         consumer advocates, has devel-
demanding payment on a loan                                                 oped the ID Theft Affidavit to
you never took out – for a car                                              help victims of ID theft restore
you never bought. Maybe you’ve                                              their good names. The ID Theft
already spent a significant                                                 Affidavit, a form that can be
amount of time and money                                                    used to report information to
calling financial institutions,                                             many organizations, simplifies
canceling accounts, struggling to                                           the process of disputing charges
regain your good name and                                                   with companies where a new
credit. Or maybe your wallet’s                                              account was opened in your
been stolen, or you’ve just heard                                           name. For a copy of the ID Theft
about identity theft for the first                                          Affidavit, see page 29 or visit
time on the nightly news, and                                               the ID Theft Website at
you’d like to know more about                                     
protecting yourself from this         Probably not, especially if               The Hotline and Website
devastating crime. This booklet       someone is determined to com-         give you one place to report the
is for you.                           mit the crime. But you can            theft to the federal government
    The Federal Trade Commis-         minimize your risk by managing        and receive helpful information.
sion (FTC), working with other        your personal information wisely      The FTC puts your information
government agencies and organi-       and cautiously.                       into a secure consumer fraud
zations, has produced this               If you’ve been a victim of         database where it can be used to
booklet to help you guard against     identity theft, call the FTC’s        help other law enforcement
and recover from identity theft.      Identity Theft Hotline toll-free at   agencies and private entities in
Can you completely prevent            1-877-IDTHEFT (438-4338).             their investigations and victim
identity theft from occurring?        Counselors will take your com-        assistance.

How Identity Theft Occurs
               My wallet was stolen in December 1998. There’s been no end to
               the problems I’ve faced since then. The thieves used my identity to
               write checks, use a debit card, open a bank account with a line of
               credit, open credit accounts with several stores, obtain cell phones
               and run up huge bills, print fraudulent checks on a personal com-
               puter bearing my name, and more. I’ve spent the last two years
               trying to repair my credit report (a very frustrating process) and
               have suffered the ill effects of having a marred credit history. I’ve
               recently been denied a student loan because of inaccurate
               information on my credit report.

                        From a consumer complaint to the FTC, February 22, 2001

          espite your best efforts to
          manage the flow of your                      How identity thieves get your
          personal information or to                   personal information:
keep it to yourself, skilled identity
thieves may use a                                      ■ They  steal wallets and purses containing
variety of methods                                       your identification and credit and bank
– low- and hi-                                           cards.
                                                       ■ They steal your mail, including your bank
tech – to gain
                                                         and credit card statements, pre-approved
access to your
                                                         credit offers, new checks, and tax informa-
data. Here are
some of the ways                                       ■ They complete a “change of address form”
imposters can get                                        to divert your mail to another location.
your personal                                          ■ They rummage through your trash, or the
information and                                          trash of businesses, for personal data in a
take over your                                           practice known as “dumpster diving.”
identity.                                              ■ They fraudulently obtain your credit report
                                                         by posing as a landlord, employer
                                                         or someone else who may have a legitimate
                                                         need for, and legal right to, the information.
                                                       ■ They find personal information in your
                                                       ■ They use personal information you share on
                                                         the Internet.
                                                       ■ They scam you, often through email, by
                                                         posing as legitimate companies or govern-
                                                         ment agencies you do business with.
                                                       ■ They get your information from the work-
                                                         place in a practice known as “business
                                                         record theft” by: stealing files out of offices
                                                         where you’re a customer, employee, patient
                                                         or student; bribing an employee who has
                                                         access to your files; or “hacking” into elec-
                                                         tronic files.

    How identity thieves use your
    personal information:

    ■ They   call your credit card issuer and,
      pretending to be you, ask to change the
      mailing address on your credit card
      account. The imposter then runs up
      charges on your account. Because your
      bills are being sent to the new address, it
      may take some time before you realize
      there’s a problem.
    ■ They open a new credit card account,
      using your name, date of birth and SSN.
      When they use the credit card and don’t
      pay the bills, the delinquent account is
      reported on your credit report.
    ■ They establish phone or wireless service in
      your name.
    ■ They open a bank account in your name
      and write bad checks on that account.
    ■ They file for bankruptcy under your name
      to avoid paying debts they’ve incurred
      under your name, or to avoid eviction.
    ■ They counterfeit checks or debit cards,
      and drain your bank account.
    ■ They buy cars by taking out auto loans in
      your name.
    ■ They give your name to the police during
      an arrest. If they’re released from police
      custody, but don’t show up for their court
      date, an arrest warrant is issued in your

Minimize Your Risk
                    I’m tired of the hours I’ve spent on the phone and all the
                    faxing I’ve had to do. When will it be over?

                            From a consumer complaint to the FTC, March 13, 2001

                    Tomorrow is Sunday so we won’t get any notices, but I’m
                    not looking forward to Monday’s mail.

                            From a consumer complaint to the FTC, November 13, 2001

            hile you probably
           can’t prevent identity                            CREDIT BUREAUS
           theft entirely, you can
minimize your risk. By managing          Equifax –
your personal information wisely,        To order your report, call: 800-685-1111
cautiously and with an awareness         To report fraud, call: 800-525-6285/
of the issue, you can help guard         TDD 800-255-0056 and write:
against identity theft.                   .O.
                                         P Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241

What You Can Do Today                    Experian –
• Order a copy of your credit            To order your report, call: 888-EXPERIAN (397-3742)
report from each of the three
                                         To report fraud, call: 888-EXPERIAN (397-3742)/
                                         TDD 800-972-0322 and write:
major credit bureaus. Your
                                         P Box 9532, Allen TX 75013
credit report contains information
on where you work and live, the
                                         TransUnion –
credit accounts that have been           To order your report, call: 800-888-4213
opened in your name, how you             To report fraud, call: 800-680-7289/
pay your bills and whether               TDD 877-553-7803; fax: 714-447-6034; email:
you’ve been sued, arrested or   or write: Fraud Victim Assistance
filed for bankruptcy. Make sure                        .O.
                                         Department, P Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92634-6790
it’s accurate and includes only
those activities you’ve autho-
rized. By law, credit bureaus can
charge you no more than $9 for a      or a series of consecutive num-   • Ask about information secu-
copy of your credit report. See       bers. When opening new ac-        rity procedures in your work-
“Credit Reports” on page 15 for       counts, you may find that many    place. Find out who has access to
details about removing fraudu-        businesses still have a line on   your personal information and
lent and inaccurate information       their applications for your       verify that records are kept in a
from your credit report.              mother’s maiden name. Use a       secure location. Ask about the
                                      password instead.                 disposal procedures for those
• Place passwords on your                                               records as well.
credit card, bank and phone           • Secure personal information
accounts. Avoid using easily          in your home, especially if you   Maintaining Vigilance
available information like your       have roommates, employ outside    • Order a copy of your credit
mother’s maiden name, your            help or are having service work   report from each of the three
birth date, the last four digits of   done in your home.                major credit bureaus once a year.
your SSN or your phone number,
By checking your report on a
regular basis you can catch                            A SPECIAL WORD ABOUT
mistakes and fraud before they                        SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBERS
wreak havoc on your personal
finances. Don’t underestimate the          Your employer and financial institution will likely
importance of this step. One of the        need your SSN for wage and tax reporting purposes.
most common ways that consum-              Other businesses may ask you for your SSN to do a
ers find out that they’re victims of       credit check, like when you apply for a loan, rent an
identity theft is when they try to         apartment, or sign up for utilities. Sometimes, how-
make a major purchase, like a              ever, they simply want your SSN for general record
house or a car. The deal can be            keeping. You don’t have to give a business your SSN
lost or delayed while the credit           just because they ask for it. If someone asks for your
report mess is straightened out.           SSN, ask the following questions:
Knowing what’s in your credit
report allows you to fix problems          ■   Why do you need my SSN?
before they jeopardize a major
                                           ■   How will my SSN be used?
                                           ■   What law requires me to give you my SSN?
financial transaction.
                                           ■   What will happen if I don’t give you my SSN?
• Don’t give out personal informa-         Sometimes a business may not provide you with the
tion on the phone, through the             service or benefit you’re seeking if you don’t provide
mail or over the Internet unless           your SSN. Getting answers to these questions will
you’ve initiated the contact or are        help you decide whether you want to share your SSN
sure you know who you’re                   with the business. Remember – the decision is yours.
dealing with. Identity thieves may
pose as representatives of banks,
Internet service providers (ISPs)      remove mail from your mailbox.       • Before revealing any personally
and even government agencies to        If you’re planning to be away        identifying information (for
get you to reveal your SSN,            from home and can’t pick up          example, on an application), find
mother’s maiden name, account          your mail, call the U.S. Postal      out how it will be used and
numbers and other identifying          Service at 1-800-275-8777 to         secured, and whether it will be
information. Before you share any      request a vacation hold. The         shared with others. Ask if you
personal information, confirm that     Postal Service will hold your        have a choice about the use of
you are dealing with a legitimate      mail at your local post office       your information. Can you choose
organization. You can check the        until you can pick it up or are      to have it kept confidential?
organization’s website as many         home to receive it.
companies post scam alerts when          To thwart an identity thief who    • Don’t carry your SSN card;
their name is used improperly, or      may pick through your trash or       leave it in a secure place.
you can call customer service          recycling bins to capture your
using the number listed on your        personal information, tear or        • Give your SSN only when
account statement or in the tele-      shred your charge receipts,          absolutely necessary. Ask to use
phone book.                            copies of credit applications,       other types of identifiers when
                                       insurance forms, physician           possible. If your state uses your
• Guard your mail and trash from       statements, checks and bank          SSN as your driver’s license
theft.                                 statements, expired charge cards     number, ask to substitute another
  Deposit outgoing mail in post        that you’re discarding, and          number.
office collection boxes or at your     credit offers you get in the mail.
local post office, rather than in an                                        • Carry only the identification
unsecured mailbox. Promptly                                                 information and the number of
                                                                           goldmine to an identity thief. The
                                                                           following tips can help you keep
                                                                           your computer and your personal
                                                                           information safe.

                                                                           • Update your virus protection
                                                                           software regularly, or when a new
                                                                           virus alert is announced. Com-
                                                                           puter viruses can have a variety
                                                                           of damaging effects, including
                                                                           introducing program code that
                                                                           causes your computer to send out
                                                                           files or other stored information.
                                                                           Be on the alert for security
                                                                           repairs and patches that you can
                                                                           download from your operating
                                                                           system’s website.

                                                                           • Do not download files sent to
                                                                           you by strangers or click on
                                                                           hyperlinks from people you don’t
                                                                           know. Opening a file could
                                                                           expose your system to a com-
                                                                           puter virus or a program that
                                                                           could hijack your modem.

                                                                           • Use a firewall program, espe-
                                                                           cially if you use a high-speed
                                                                           Internet connection like cable,
                                                                           DSL or T-1, which leaves your
                                                                           computer connected to the
credit and debit cards that you’ll    • Keep your purse or wallet in a     Internet 24 hours a day. The
actually need.                        safe place at work.                  firewall program will allow you
                                                                           to stop uninvited guests from
• Pay attention to your billing       The Doors and Windows                accessing your computer. Without
cycles. Follow up with creditors      Are Locked, but . . .                it, hackers can take over your
if your bills don’t arrive on time.   You may be careful about             computer and access your per-
A missing credit card bill could      locking your doors and windows,      sonal information stored on it or
mean an identity thief has taken      and keeping your personal papers     use it to commit other crimes.
over your account and changed         in a secure place. But, depending
your billing address to cover his     on what you use your personal        • Use a secure browser – soft-
tracks.                               computer for, an identity thief      ware that encrypts or scrambles
                                      may not need to set foot in your     information you send over the
• Be wary of promotional scams.       house to steal your personal         Internet – to guard the security of
Identity thieves may use phony        information. SSNs, financial         your online transactions. Be sure
offers to get you to give them        records, tax returns, birth dates,   your browser has the most up-to-
your personal information.            and bank account numbers may         date encryption capabilities by
                                      be stored in your computer – a

using the latest
version avail-
able from the
You also can
download some
browsers for
free over the
Internet. When
look for the
“lock” icon on
the browser’s
status bar to be
sure your
information is
secure during

• Try not to store
financial infor-
mation on your laptop unless         files unrecoverable. For more
absolutely necessary. If you do,     information, see Clearing
use a strong password – a            Information From Your
combination of letters (upper and    Computer’s Hard Drive
lowers case), numbers and            (
symbols. Don’t use an automatic      hq/harddrive.pdf) from the
log-in feature which saves your      National Aeronautics and Space
user name and password so you        Administration (NASA).
don’t have to enter them each
time you log-in or enter a site.     • Look for website privacy
And always log off when you’re       policies. They answer questions
finished. That way, if your laptop   about maintaining accuracy,
gets stolen, it’s harder for the     access, security, and control of
thief to access your personal        personal information collected by
information.                         the site, as well as how informa-
                                     tion will be used, and whether it
• Before you dispose of a com-       will be provided to third parties.
puter, delete personal informa-      If you don’t see a privacy policy,
tion. Deleting files using the       consider surfing elsewhere.
keyboard or mouse commands               For more information, see
may not be enough because the        Site-Seeing on the Internet: A
files may stay on the computer’s     Traveler’s Guide to Cyberspace
hard drive, where they may be        from the FTC at
easily retrieved. Use a “wipe”
utility program to overwrite the
entire hard drive. It makes the

Choosing to Share Your
Personal Information – or Not

              In November 2000, I found out that someone used my information
              to obtain a cell phone. Since then, I’ve been living a nightmare. My
              credit report is a mess. It’s a full-time job to investigate and correct
              the information.

                      From a consumer complaint to the FTC, April 3, 2001

          ur economy generates an        To opt out of receiving pre-       number to let consumers choose
          enormous amount of          screened credit card offers, call:    to not receive pre-screened credit
          data. Most users of that    1-888-5-OPTOUT (1-888-567-            offers.
information are from honest           8688). The three major credit
businesses – getting and giving       bureaus use the same toll-free        Marketing Lists
legitimate information. Despite                                             In addition, you can notify the
the benefits of the information                                             three major credit bureaus that
age, some consumers may want                                                you do not want personal infor-
to limit the amount of personal                                             mation about you shared for
information they share. And they
can: More organizations are                                                OPT
                                                                               O   UT
offering people choices about
                                                                           OPT OUT
how their personal information is                                                 O   UT
used. For example, many feature
an “opt-out” choice that limits the
information shared with others or
used for promotional purposes.
When you “opt-out,” you may cut
down on the number of unsolic-
ited telemarketing calls, promo-
tional mail and spam emails that
you receive. Learn more about
the options you have for protect-
ing your personal information by
contacting the following organi-

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
could retrieve the offers for their
own use without your knowledge.

promotional purposes. To ask the     telephone marketers. However,
three major credit bureaus not to    your registration will not stop
share your personal information,     mailings or calls from organiza-
write to:                            tions not registered with the
                                     DMA’s Mail and Telephone
Equifax, Inc.                        Preference Services.
PO Box 740123                        For Direct Mail Marketing
Atlanta, GA 30374-0123               Direct Marketing Association
                                     Mail Preference Service
Experian                             PO Box 643
Consumer Opt-Out                     Carmel, NY 10512
701 Experian Parkway                    Or go online at www.the-
Allen, TX 75013            
Marketing List Opt Out               For Telemarketing
PO Box 97328                         Direct Marketing Association
Jackson, MS 39288-7328               Telephone Preference Service
                                     PO Box 1559
Department of Motor                  Carmel, NY 10512
Vehicles                                 Or go online at www.the-
The Drivers Privacy Protection
Act forbids states from distribut-   offtelephonelist.html.
ing personal information to direct       You also may register with a
marketers. It does allow for the     state “do not call” list: Many
sharing of personal information      states offer “do not call” lists for
with law enforcement officials,      residents of that state. Rules for
courts, government agencies,         how to put your name and
private investigators, insurance     number on the list and which
underwriters and similar busi-       telemarketers are covered vary.
nesses. Check with your state        More information on state “do not
DMV to learn more, or visit          call” lists is available at       
                                     For E-mail
Direct Marketers                     The DMA also has an EMail
The Direct Marketing                 Preference Service to help you
Association’s (DMA) Mail and         reduce unsolicited commercial
Telephone Preference Services        emails. To “opt-out” of receiving
allow you to opt out of receiving    unsolicited commercial email, use
direct mail marketing and            DMA’s online form at
telemarketing calls from many
national companies for five years.   offemaillist.html. Your online
    When you register with these     request will be effective for one
services, your name will be put      year.
on a “delete” file and made
available to direct-mail and

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 misused to commit
fraud or theft, take action imme-
diately, and keep a detailed
record of your conversations and
correspondence. You may want
to use the form, “Chart Your
Course of Action,”on page 14.
Exactly which steps you should
take to protect against further
damage depends on your circum-
stance 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 de-
partments of each of the three
major credit bureaus. See page
5 for a list of phone numbers.
    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 state-
ment that asks creditors to 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 three major credit bureaus.
Credit bureaus must give you a
free copy of your report if your
report is inaccurate because of
fraud, and you ask for it in
writing. Review your reports
carefully to make sure no addi-
tional fraudulent accounts have
been opened in your name or

unauthorized charges made to             If the identity thief has made        You can contact major check
your existing accounts. Also,        charges or debits, ask the com-       verification companies directly
check the section of your report     pany about the following forms        for the following services:
that lists “inquiries.” Where        for disputing those transactions:
“inquiries” appear from the                                                • To request that they notify
company(ies) that opened the         • For New Unauthorized Ac-            retailers who use their databases
fraudulent account(s), request       counts: Does the company accept       not to accept your checks, call:
that they be removed from your       the ID Theft Affidavit (see page
report. (See “Credit Reports” on     29)? If not, ask the representative   TeleCheck:
page 15 for more information.) In    to send you the company’s fraud       1-800-710-9898 or 927-0188
a few months, order new copies       dispute forms.
of your reports to verify your                                             Certegy, Inc. (previously
corrections and changes, and to      • For Your Existing Accounts:         Equifax Check Systems):
make sure no new fraudulent          Ask the representative to send        1-800-437-5120
activity has occurred.               you the company’s fraud dispute
    Please note: Fraud alerts and    forms. If the company doesn’t         International Check Services:
victim statements are voluntary      have special forms, use the           1-800-631-9656
services provided by the credit      sample letter on page 18.
bureaus. Creditors do not have to                                          • To find out if the identity thief
consider them when granting          ATM Cards                             has been passing bad checks in
credit. That’s why it’s vital to     If your ATM card has been lost,       your name, call:
continue checking your reports       stolen or otherwise compromised,
periodically. In addition, fraud     cancel the card as soon as you        SCAN: 1-800-262-7771
alerts and victim statements         can. Get a new card with a new
expire; you need to renew them       PIN.                                      Follow up all calls in writing.
periodically. Ask each bureau                                              Send you letter by certified mail,
about its policy.                    Checks                                return receipt requested, so you
    Second, close the accounts       If your checks have been stolen       can document what the company
that you know or believe have        or misused, stop payment and ask      received and when. Keep copies
been tampered with or opened         your bank to notify the check         for your files.
fraudulently.                        verification service with which it        Third, file a police report
                                     does business. While no federal       with your local police or the
Credit Accounts                      law limits your losses if someone     police in the community where
Credit accounts include all          steals your checks and forges         the identity theft took place.
accounts with banks, credit card     your signature, state laws may            Get a copy of the police
companies and other lenders, and     protect you. Most states hold the     report. Very often, the bank,
phone companies, utilities, ISPs,    bank responsible for losses from      credit card company or others
and other service providers. If      a forged check. At the same time,     need proof of the crime in order
you are closing your existing        however, most states require you      to erase the debts created by the
accounts, use new Personal           to take reasonable care of your       identity thief. If you can’t get a
Identification Numbers (PINs)        account. For example, you may         copy of the report, at least get the
and passwords when you open          be held responsible for the           report number.
new accounts. Avoid using easily     forgery if you fail to notify the
available information like your      bank in a timely manner that a
mothers maiden name, your birth      check was lost or stolen. Contact
date, the last four digits of your   your state banking or consumer
SSN or your phone number, or a       protection agency for more
series of consecutive numbers.       information.

                            Tips on Filing a Police Report

■ Providedocumentation. Furnish as much documentation as you can to prove your
case. Debt collection letters, credit reports, your notarized ID Theft Affidavit, and other
evidence of fraudulent activity can help the police file a complete report.

■ Be  persistent. Local authorities may tell you that they can’t take a report. Stress the
importance of a police report; many creditors require one to resolve your dispute. Also
remind them that under their voluntary “Police Report Initiative,” credit bureaus will
automatically block the fraudulent accounts and bad debts from appearing on your credit
report, but only if you can give them a copy of the police report. If you can’t get the local
police to take a report, try your county police. If that doesn’t work, try your state police.
  If you’re told that identity theft is not a crime under your state law, ask to file a Miscella-
neous Incident Report instead. See page 25 for a list of state laws.

■ Be a motivating force Ask your police department to search the FTC’s Consumer
Sentinel database for other complaints in your community. You may not be the first or
only victim of this identity thief. If there is a pattern of cases, local authorities may give
your case more consideration.
  That’s why it’s also important to file a complaint with the FTC. Law enforcement agen-
cies use complaints filed with the FTC to aggregate cases, spot patterns, and track growth
in identity theft. This information can then be used to improve investigations and victim

                            Tips on Organizing Your Case

Accurate and complete records will greatly improve your chances of resolving your
identity theft case.

■ Follow  up in writing with all contacts you’ve made on the phone or in person. Use
certified mail, return receipt requested.

■ Keep    copies of all correspondence or forms you send.

■ Write down the name of anyone you talk to, what he or she told you, and the date the
conversation occurred. Use Chart Your Course of Action on page 14 to help you.

■ Keep the originals of supporting documentation, like police reports, and letters to and
from creditors; send copies only.

■ Set   up a filing system for easy access to your paperwork.

■ Keep old files even if you believe your case is closed. One of the most difficult and
annoying aspects of identity theft is that errors can reappear on your credit reports or
your information can be re-circulated. Should this happen, you’ll be glad you kept your

     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

                       Phone             Date         Contact
       Bureau                                                               Comments
                       Number            Contacted    Person

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

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

                           Address and                 Date           Contact
       Creditor                                                                          Comments
                           Phone Number                Contacted      Person

     Law Enforcement Authorities — Report Identity Theft
                                Phone          Date         Contact             Report
       Agency/Deptment          Number                                          Number        Comments
                                               Contacted    Person
      Federal Trade
      Commission             1-877-IDTHEFT
      Local Police
Resolving Credit Problems
         I applied for a loan in November 2000 and was told I had bad credit. I
         requested a credit report in November 2000 and found all sorts of
         crazy information on it. I’m single but was listed as married. When I
         renewed my driver’s license by mail, I was surprised to find someone
         else’s face on my license. This is a nightmare and requires a large
         amount of my time.

                  From a consumer complaint to the FTC, October 5, 2001

             hile resolving credit
             problems resulting                Proving You’re a Victim, Not a Deadbeat
             from identity theft can
be time-consuming and frustrat-         Unlike victims of other crimes, who generally are
ing, the good news is that there        treated with respect and sympathy, identity theft victims
are procedures under federal laws       often find themselves having to prove that they’re
for correcting credit report and        victims, too – not deadbeats trying to get out of paying
billing errors, and stopping debt
                                        bad debts. So how do you go about proving something
                                        you didn’t do? Getting the right documents and getting
collectors from contacting you
                                        them to the right people is key.
about debts you don’t owe. Here
is a brief summary of your rights,
                                        The Police Report: If you have a police report, send a
and what to do to clear up credit       copy to Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. They will
problems that result from identity      block the information you’re disputing from your credit
theft.                                  reports. This may take up to 30 days. The credit bu-
                                        reaus have the right to remove the block, if they believe
Credit Reports                          it was wrongly placed. Because this initiative is volun-
The Fair Credit Reporting Act           tary in the vast majority of states, it’s important to also
(FCRA) establishes procedures           follow the dispute procedures outlined in “Credit Re-
for correcting mistakes on your         ports” on this page. Contact the credit bureaus to find
credit report and requires that         out more about how the “Police Report Initiative” works.
your report be made available           If you’re having trouble getting a police report, see
only for certain legitimate busi-       “Tips on Filing a Police Report” on page 13.
ness needs.
    Under the FCRA, both the            The ID Theft Affidavit: Since you didn’t open the ac-
credit bureau and the organization      counts in dispute or run up the related debts, of course
that provided the information to        you don’t have any paperwork showing you didn’t do
the credit bureau (the “informa-        these things. That’s where the ID Theft Affidavit can be
tion provider”), such as a bank or      very helpful. The FTC, in conjunction with banks, credit
credit card company, are respon-        grantors and consumer advocates, developed the ID
sible for correcting inaccurate or      Theft Affidavit (see page 29) to help you close unautho-
incomplete information in your          rized accounts and get rid of debts wrongfully attrib-
report. To protect your rights          uted to your name. If you don’t have a police report or
under the law, contact both the         any paperwork from creditors, send the completed ID
credit bureau and the information
                                        Theft Affidavit to the three major credit bureaus. They
                                        will use it to start the dispute investigation process. Not
provider. It’s very important to
                                        all companies accept the ID Theft Affidavit. They may
follow the procedures outlined
                                        require you to use their forms instead. Check first.
below. Otherwise you won’t have                                                     continued on page 16
any legal recourse if you have a

                                    future dispute with the credit        review all relevant information
     Creditor Documenta-            bureau or an information provider     provided by the credit bureau,
     tion: Getting documen-         about inaccurate information that     and report the results to the credit
     tation from a creditor         should be blocked from your           bureau. If the information pro-
     may be difficult. Credi-       report.                               vider finds the disputed informa-
     tors’ policies on confi-           First, call the credit bureau     tion to be inaccurate, it must
     dentiality and record          and follow up in writing. Tell        notify any nationwide credit
     keeping vary and may           them what information you             bureau to which it reports, so that
     prevent you from getting       believe is inaccurate. Include        the credit bureau can correct this
     the paperwork you need         copies (NOT originals) of docu-       information in your file. Note
     to prove you didn’t make       ments that support your position.     that:
     the transaction. On the        If you don’t have any paperwork
     upside, most victims can       from the creditor, send a copy of     • Disputed information that
     get accounts closed and        the police report and the ID Theft    cannot be verified must be
     debts dismissed by             Affidavit (see page 29.) In           deleted from your file.
     completing the creditor’s      addition to providing your com-
     fraud paperwork or the         plete name and address, your          • If your report contains errone-
     ID Theft Affidavit and         letter should clearly identify each   ous information, the credit bureau
     including a copy of your                                             must correct it.
                                    item in your report that you
     police report. Insist on a
                                    dispute, give the facts and explain
     letter from the creditor
                                    why you dispute the information,      • If an item is incomplete, the
     stating that they have
                                    and request deletion or correction.   credit bureau must complete it.
     closed the disputed
     accounts and have              You may want to enclose a copy        For example, if your file shows
     discharged you of the          of your report with circles around    that you have been late making
     fraudulent debts. This         the items in question. Your letter    payments, but fails to show that
     letter is your best defense    may look something like the           you are no longer delinquent, the
     if errors reappear or          sample on page 17. Send your          credit bureau must show that
     your personal informa-         letter by certified mail, return      you’re current.
     tion gets re-circulated.       receipt requested, so you can
     (See Tips on Organizing        document what the credit bureau       • If your file shows an account
     Your Case, page 13).           received and when. Keep copies        that belongs to someone else, the
     This letter is also the best   of your dispute letter and            credit bureau must delete it.
     document to give credit        enclosures.
     bureaus and debt collec-           The credit bureau’s investiga-         When the investigation is
     tors if your police report     tion must be completed within 30      complete, the credit bureau must
     and ID Theft Affidavit         days (45 days if you provide          give you the written results and,
     aren’t enough to resolve       additional documents). If the         if the dispute results in a change,
     your problems with             credit bureau considers your          a free copy of your report. If an
     them.                          dispute frivolous (which may          item is changed or removed, the
                                    mean it believes you didn’t           credit bureau cannot put the
                                    provide enough documentation to       disputed information back in your
                                    support your claim), it must tell     file unless the information pro-
                                    you so within five business days.     vider verifies its accuracy and
                                    Otherwise, it must forward all        completeness, and the credit
                                    relevant documents you provide        bureau gives you a written notice
                                    about the dispute to the informa-     that includes the name, address
                                    tion provider. The information        and phone number of the infor-
                                    provider then must investigate,       mation provider.

    If you ask, the credit bureau
must send notices of corrections                SAMPLE DISPUTE LETTER — CREDIT BUREAU
to anyone who received your
report in the past six months. Job      Date
applicants can have a corrected
copy of their report sent to            Your Name
anyone who received a copy              Your Address
during the past two years for           Your City, State, Zip Code
employment purposes. If an
investigation does not resolve          Complaint Department
your dispute, ask the credit            Name of Credit Bureau
bureau to include a 100-word
                                        City, State, Zip Code
statement of the dispute in your
file and in future reports.
                                        Dear Sir or Madam:
    Second, in addition to writing
                                        I am writing to dispute the following information in my file.
to the credit bureau, write to the      The items I dispute also are circled on the attached copy of
creditor or other information           the report I received. (Identify item(s) disputed by name of
provider to tell them that you          source, such as creditors or tax court, and identify type of
dispute an item. Again, include         item, such as credit account, judgment, etc.)
copies (NOT originals) of docu-
ments that support your position,       I am a victim of identity theft, and did not make the
like your police report and the ID      charge(s). I am requesting that the item be blocked to
Theft Affidavit. Many information       correct my credit report.
providers specify an address for
disputes. If the information            Enclosed are copies of (use this sentence if applicable and
provider then reports the disputed      describe any enclosed documentation) supporting my
item(s) to a credit bureau, it must     position. Please investigate this (these) matter(s) and block
include a notice of your dispute.       the disputed item(s) as soon as possible.
If you’re correct that the disputed
information is not inaccurate, the      Sincerely,
information provider may not use
it again.                               Your name
    For more information, see
How to Dispute Credit Report            Enclosures: (List what you are enclosing.)
Errors and Fair Credit Report-
ing, from the FTC at

Credit Cards                          your accounts.                       and date of the error. Your letter
                                         To take advantage of the law’s    may look something like the
In most cases, the Truth in                                                sample on page 18.
                                      consumer protections, you must:
Lending Act limits your liability
for unauthorized credit card                                               • send your letter so that it
                                      • write to the creditor at the
charges to $50 per card. The Fair                                          reaches the creditor within 60
                                      address given for “billing inquir-
Credit Billing Act (FCBA)                                                  days from when the first bill
                                      ies,” not the address for sending
establishes procedures for resolv-                                         containing the fraudulent charge
                                      your payments. Include your
ing billing errors on your credit                                          was mailed to you. If the address
                                      name, address, account number
card accounts. This includes                                               on your account was changed by
                                      and a description of the fraudu-
fraudulent charges on                                                      an identity thief and you never
                                      lent charge, including the amount
                                                                            resolved. The creditor must
              SAMPLE DISPUTE LETTER – FOR EXISTING                          resolve the dispute within two
                       CREDIT ACCOUNTS                                      billing cycles (but not more than
                                                                            90 days) after receiving your
     Date                                                                   letter.
                                                                                For more information, see
     Your Name                                                              Fair Credit Billing and Avoiding
     Your Address                                                           Credit and Charge Card Fraud,
     Your City, State, Zip Code                                             from the FTC at
     Your Account Number                                          
     Name of Creditor                                                       Debt Collectors
     Billing Inquiries
                                                                            The Fair Debt Collection Prac-
                                                                            tices Act prohibits debt collectors
     City, State, Zip Code
                                                                            from using unfair or deceptive
     Dear Sir or Madam:                                                     practices to collect overdue bills
                                                                            that a creditor has forwarded for
     I am writing to dispute a fraudulent (charge or debit)                 collection.
     attributed to my account in the amount of $______. I am a                  You can stop a debt collector
     victim of identity theft, and I did not make this (charge or           from contacting you by writing a
     debit). I am requesting that the (charge be removed or the             letter to the collection agency
     debit reinstated), that any finance and other charges                  telling them to stop. Once the
     related to the fraudulent amount be credited as well, and              debt collector receives your letter,
     that I receive an accurate statement.                                  the company may not contact you
                                                                            again – with two exceptions: they
     Enclosed are copies of (use this sentence to describe any              can tell you there will be no
     enclosed information, such as police report) supporting my             further contact and they can tell
     position. Please investigate this matter and correct the               you that the debt collector or the
     fraudulent (charge or debit) as soon as possible.                      creditor intends to take some
                                                                            specific action.
                                                                                A collector also may not
     Sincerely,                                                             contact you if, within 30 days
                                                                            after you receive the written
     Your name                                                              notice, you send the collection
                                                                            agency a letter stating you do not
     Enclosures: (List what you are enclosing.)                             owe the money.
                                                                                Although your letter should
received the bill, your dispute        This will be your proof of the       stop the debt collector’s calls and
letter still must reach the creditor   date the creditor received the       dunning notices, it will not
within 60 days of when the bill        letter. Include copies (NOT          necessarily get rid of the debt
would have been mailed to you.         originals) of sales slips or other   itself, which may still turn up on
This is why it’s so important to       documents that support your          your credit report.
keep track of your billing state-      position. Keep a copy of your            A collector can renew collec-
ments and immediately follow up        dispute letter.                      tion activities if you’re sent proof
when your bills don’t arrive on            The creditor must acknowl-       of the debt. So, along with your
time.                                  edge your complaint in writing       letter stating you don’t owe the
    Send your letter by certified      within 30 days after receiving it,   money, include copies of docu-
mail, return receipt requested.        unless the problem has been          ments that support your position.

                                                                            immediately because the amount
                                                                            you can be held responsible for
                                                                            depends on how quickly you
                                                                            report the loss.

                                                                            • If you report your ATM card lost
                                                                            or stolen within two business days
                                                                            of discovering the loss or theft,
                                                                            your losses are limited to $50.

                                                                            • If you report your ATM card lost
                                                                            or stolen after the two business
                                                                            days, but within 60 days after a
                                                                            statement showing an unautho-
                                                                            rized electronic fund transfer, you
                                                                            can be liable for up to $500 of
                                                                            what a thief withdraws.

                                                                            • If you wait more than 60 days,
                                                                            you could lose all the money that
                                                                            was taken from your account
                                                                            from the end of the 60 days to the
                                                                            time you reported your card
                                     signature.You can then prove that
                                     it’s not your signature on the             The best way to protect
                                     application. In many cases, the        yourself in the event of an error or
                                     debt collector will not send you       fraudulent transaction is to call
                                     any proof, but will instead            the financial institution and follow
                                     return the debt to the creditor.       up in writing – by certified letter,
                                          For more information, see         return receipt requested – so you
                                     Fair Debt Collection from the          can prove when the institution
                                     FTC at               received your letter. Keep a copy
                                     idtheft.                               of the letter you send for your
    If you’re a victim of identity                                          records.
theft, include a copy (NOT the       ATM Cards, Debit Cards
                                                                                After receiving notification
original) of the police report. If   and Electronic Fund                    about an error on your statement,
you don’t have documentation to      Transfers                              the financial institution generally
support your position, be as         The Electronic Fund Transfer Act       has 10 business days to investi-
specific as possible about why the   provides consumer protections          gate. The institution must tell you
debt collector is mistaken.          for transactions involving an          the results of its investigation
    The debt collector is respon-    ATM or debit card or any other         within three business days after
sible for sending you proof that     electronic way to debit or credit      completing it and must correct an
you’re wrong. For example, if the    an account. It also limits your        error within one business day
debt in dispute originates from a    liability for unauthorized elec-       after determining that the error
credit card you never applied for,   tronic fund transfers.                 has occurred. If the institution
ask for the actual application           It’s important to report lost or   needs more time, it may take up
containing the applicant’s           stolen ATM and debit cards             to 45 days to complete the inves-

                                                                   tigation – but only if the money in
                                                                   dispute is returned to your
                                                                   account and you are notified
                                                                   promptly of the credit. At the end
                                                                   of the investigation, if no error
                                                                   has been found, the institution
                                                                   may take the money back if it
                                                                   sends you a written explanation.
                                                                       Note: VISA and MasterCard
                                                                   voluntarily have agreed to limit
                                                                   consumers’ liability for unautho-
                                                                   rized use of their debit cards in
                                                                   most instances to $50 per card,
                                                                   no matter how much time has
                                                                   elapsed since the discovery of the
                                                                   loss or theft of the card.
                                                                       For more information, see
                                                                   Electronic Banking and Credit,
                                                                   ATM and Debit Cards: What to
           FILING A COMPLAINT WITH THE FTC                         Do If They’re Lost or Stolen, two
                     IS IMPORTANT                                  consumer publications from the
                                                                   FTC at
     If you’ve been a victim of identity theft, file a complaint   idtheft.
     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 Penn-
     sylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20580; or

     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.

     By sharing your identity theft complaint with the FTC,
     you will provide important information that can help
     law enforcement officials track down identity thieves
     and stop them. The FTC also refers victim complaints to
     other appropriate government agencies and private
     organizations for further action.

Specific Problems

          umerous federal and           • Your Wallet: A Loser’s Manual   ness days 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
          state agencies have           –         CST); fax: 713-336-4301; write:
          jurisdiction over specific    consumer/news/cnfall97/           Customer Assistance Group,
aspects of identity theft. If your      wallet.html                       1301 McKinney Street, Suite
theft relates to any of the follow-                                       3710, Houston, TX 77010.
ing categories, contact the agen-   Federal Reserve System (Fed)              OCC publications:
cies directly for help and informa- –              • Check Fraud: A Guide to
tion or to initiate an investigation.   The Fed supervises state-         Avoiding Losses –
                                    chartered banks that are members
Bank Fraud                          of the Federal Reserve System.        chckfrd.pdf
If you’re having trouble getting        Call: 202-452-3693; or write:     • How to Avoid Becoming a
your financial institution to help  Division of Consumer and              Victim of Identity Theft –
you resolve your banking-related Community Affairs, Mail Stop   
identity theft problems, including 801, Federal Reserve Board,            • Identity Theft and Pretext
problems with bank-issued credit Washington, DC 20551; or                 Calling Advisory Letter 2001-4 –
cards, contact the agency with the contact the Federal Reserve Bank
appropriate jurisdiction. If you’re in your area. The 12 Reserve          sory/2001-4.doc
not sure which of the agencies      Banks are located in Boston,
listed below has jurisdiction over New York, Philadelphia, Cleve-         Office of Thrift Supervision
your institution, call your bank or land, Richmond, Atlanta, Chi-         (OTS) –
visit                cago, St. Louis, Minneapolis,             The OTS is the primary
enforcement.htm.                    Kansas City, Dallas and San           regulator of all federal, and many
                                    Francisco.                            state-chartered, thrift institutions,
Federal Deposit Insurance                                                 which include savings banks and
Corporation (FDIC) –                National Credit Union Admin-          savings and loan institutions.                        istration (NCUA) –                        Call: 202-906-6000; or write:
    The FDIC supervises state-                          Office of Thrift Supervision,
chartered banks that are not            The NCUA charters and             1700 G Street, NW, Washington,
members of the Federal Reserve supervises federal credit unions           DC 20552.
System and insures deposits at      and insures deposits at federal
banks and savings and loans.        credit unions and many state          Bankruptcy Fraud
    Call the FDIC Consumer Call credit unions.                            U. S. Trustee (UST) –
Center at 1-800-934-3342; or            Call: 703-518-6360; or write:
write: Federal Deposit Insurance Compliance Officer, National                 If you believe someone has
Corporation, Division of Compli- Credit Union Administration,             filed for bankruptcy in your
ance and Consumer Affairs, 550      1775 Duke Street, Alexandria,         name, write to the U.S. Trustee in
17th Street, NW, Washington,        VA 22314.                             the region where the bankruptcy
DC 20429.                                                                 was filed. A list of the U.S.
    FDIC publications:              Office of the Comptroller of          Trustee Programs’s Regional
• Classic Cons... And How to        the Currency (OCC) –                  Offices is available on the UST
Counter Them –                     website, or check the Blue Pages
consumers/consumer/news/                The OCC charters and              of your phone book under U.S.
cnsprg98/cons.html                  supervises national banks. If the     Government Bankruptcy Admin-
• A Crook Has Drained Your          word “national” appears in the        istration.
Account. Who Pays? –                name of a bank, or the initials           Your letter should describe             “N.A.” follow its name, the OCC       the situation and provide proof of
consumer/news/cnsprg98/             oversees its operations.              your identity. The U.S. Trustee, if
crook.html                              Call: 1-800-613-6743 (busi-       appropriate, will make a criminal

referral to law enforcement         county other than where you live,     identity thief. Ask that your files
authorities if you provide appro-   ask your local police department      be flagged for possible fraud.
priate documentation to substanti-  to send the impersonation report          You may need to hire a
ate your claim. You also may        to the police department in the       criminal defense attorney to help
want to file a complaint with the   jurisdiction where the arrest         you clear your name. Contact
U.S. Attorney and/or the FBI in     warrant, traffic citation or          Legal Services in your state or
the city where the bankruptcy       criminal conviction originated.       your local bar association for help
was filed. The U.S. Trustee does         The law enforcement agency       in finding an attorney.
not provide legal representation,   should then recall any warrants
legal advice or referrals to        and issue a “clearance letter” or     Fake Driver’s License
lawyers. That means you may         certificate of release (if you were   If you think your name or SSN is
need to hire an attorney to help    arrested/booked). You’ll need to      being used by an identity thief to
convince the bankruptcy court       keep this document with you at        get a driver’s license or a non-
that the filing is fraudulent. The  all times in case you’re wrongly      driver’s ID card, contact your
U.S. Trustee does not provide       arrested. Also, ask the law           DMV. If your state uses your
consumers with copies of court      enforcement agency to file, with      SSN as your driver’s license
documents. Those documents          the district attorney’s (D.A.)        number, ask to substitute another
are available from the bankruptcy   office and/or court where the         number.
clerk’s office for a fee.           crime took place, the record of
                                    the follow-up investigation           Investment Fraud
Criminal Violations                 establishing your innocence. This     U.S. Securities and Exchange
Although procedures to correct      will result in an amended com-        Commission (SEC) –
your record within the criminal     plaint being issued. Once your
justice databases vary from state   name is recorded in a criminal            The SEC’s Office of Investor
to state, and even from county to database, it’s unlikely that it will    Education and Assistance serves
county, the following information be completely removed from the          investors who complain to the
can be used as a general guide.     official record. Ask that the “key    SEC about investment fraud or
    If wrongful criminal violations name,” or “primary name,” be          the mishandling of their invest-
are attributed to your name,        changed from your name to the         ments by securities professionals.
contact the arresting or citing law imposter’s name (or to “John          If you believe that an identity
enforcement agency – that is, the Doe” if the imposter’s true             thief has tampered with your
police or sheriff’s department that identity is not known), with your     securities investments or a
originally arrested the person      name noted only as an alias.          brokerage account, immediately
using your identity, or the court        You’ll also want to clear your   report it to your broker or ac-
agency that issued the warrant for  name in the court records. You’ll     count manager and to the SEC.
the arrest. File an impersonation   need to determine which state         You can file a complaint with the
report. And have your identity      law(s) will help you do this and      SEC using the online Complaint
confirmed: The police department how. If your state has no formal         Center at
takes a full set of your finger-    procedure for clearing your           complaint.shtml. Be sure to
prints and your photograph, and     record, contact the D.A.’s office     include as much detail as pos-
copies any photo identification     in the county where the case was      sible. If you don’t have access to
documents like your driver’s        originally prosecuted. Ask the        the Internet, you can write to the
license, passport or visa. Ask the D.A.’s office for the appropriate      SEC at: SEC Office of Investor
law enforcement agency to           court records needed to clear         Education and Assistance, 450
compare the prints and photo-       your name.                            Fifth Street, NW, Washington
graphs with those of the imposter        Finally, contact your state      DC, 20549-0213. For general
to establish your innocence. If the DMV to find out if your driver’s      questions, call 202-942-7040.
arrest warrant is from a state or   license is being used by the

Mail Theft
                                                 SHOULD I APPLY FOR A NEW SOCIAL
U.S. Postal Inspection Service
                                                       SECURITY NUMBER?
websites/depart/inspect                   Under certain circumstances, SSA may issue you a new
    USPIS is the law enforcement          SSN – at your request – if, after trying to resolve the
arm of the U.S. Postal Service            problems brought on by identity theft, you continue to
responsible for investigating             experience problems. Consider this option carefully. A
cases of identity theft. USPIS has        new SSN may not resolve your identity theft problems,
primary jurisdiction in all matters       and may actually create new problems. For example, a
infringing on the integrity of the        new SSN does not necessarily ensure a new credit
U.S. mail. If an identity thief has       record because credit bureaus may combine the credit
stolen your mail to get new credit        records from your old SSN with those from your new
cards, bank or credit card state-         SSN. Even when the old credit information is not associ-
ments, pre-screened credit offers         ated with your new SSN, the absence of any credit
or tax information, has falsified         history under your new SSN may make it more difficult
change-of-address forms, or               for you to get credit. And finally, there’s no guarantee
obtained your personal informa-           that a new SSN also would not be misused by an iden-
tion through a fraud conducted by         tity thief.
mail, report it to your local postal
inspector. You can locate the
USPIS district office nearest you       vider immediately to cancel the      Bureau, 445 12th Street, SW,
by calling your local post office or    account and/or calling card. Open    Room 5A863, Washington, DC
checking the list at the website        new accounts and choose new          20554. You can file complaints
above.                                  PINs. If you’re having trouble       via the online complaint form at
                                        getting fraudulent phone charges, or e-mail ques-
Passport Fraud                          removed from your account or         tions to
United States Department of             getting an unauthorized account
State (USDS) –                          closed, contact the appropriate      Social Security Number                   agency from the list below.          Theft and Misuse
passport_services.html                      For local service, contact       Social Security Administration
    If you’ve lost your passport or     your state Public Utility Commis-    (SSA) –
believe it was stolen or is being       sion.                                    The SSA Office of the
used fraudulently, contact the              For cellular phones and          Inspector General investigates
USDS through their website or           long distance, contact the           cases of identity theft. Report
call a local USDS field office.         Federal Communications Com-          allegations that an SSN has been
Local field offices are listed in the   mission (FCC) –         stolen or misused to the SSA
Blue Pages of your telephone            The FCC regulates interstate and     Fraud Hotline. Call: 1-800- 269-
directory.                              international communications by      0271; fax: 410-597-0118; write:
                                        radio, television, wire, satellite   SSA Fraud Hotline, P.O. Box
Phone Fraud                             and cable. You can contact the       17768, Baltimore, MD 21235; or
If an identity thief has established    FCC’s Consumer Information           e-mail:
phone service in your name, is          Bureau to find out about informa-        Also call SSA at 1-800-772-
making unauthorized calls that          tion, forms, applications and        1213 to verify the accuracy of
seem to come from – and are             current issues before the FCC.       the earnings reported on your
billed to – your cellular phone, or     Call: 1-888-CALL-FCC; TTY: 1-        SSN, and to request a copy of
is using your calling card and          888-TELL-FCC; or write:              your Social Security Statement.
PIN, contact your service pro-          Federal Communications Com-          Follow up in writing.
                                        mission, Consumer Information

                                                      FOR MORE INFORMATION

    SSA publications:                 Federal Trade Commission (FTC) –
                                              Trade                (FTC)
• SSA Fraud Hotline for Report-       The FTC is educating consumers and businesses about the
ing Fraud –          importance of personal information privacy. Here are some
guidelin.htm                          additional publications you may find useful. To request a
• Social Security: Your Number        free copy, call 1-877-FTC -HELP (382-4357) or visit
and Card (SSA Pub. No. 05-  
10002) –
10002.html                            • Getting Purse-onal: What To Do If Your Wallet or Purse Is Stolen
• When Someone Misuses Your           • Identity Crisis... What to Do If Your Identity Is Stolen
Number (SSA Pub. No. 05-              • Identity Thieves Can Ruin Your Good Name: Tips for Avoiding
10064) –              Identity Theft
                                      • Avoiding Credit and Charge Card Fraud
                                      • Credit, ATM and Debit Cards: What to Do If They’re Lost or
Tax Fraud                               Stolen
                                      • Credit Card Loss Protection Offers: They’re The Real Steal
Internal Revenue Service (IRS)        • Electronic Banking
–                • Fair Credit Billing
    The IRS is responsible for        • Fair Credit Reporting
administering and enforcing tax       • Fair Debt Collection
laws. If you believe someone has      •How to Dispute Credit Report Errors
assumed your identity to file
federal Income Tax Returns, or to     Department of Justice (DOJ) –
commit other tax fraud, call toll-    The DOJ and its U.S. Attorneys prosecute federal identity
free: 1-800-829-0433. Victims of      theft cases. Information on identity theft is available at
identity theft who are having
trouble filing their returns should
call the IRS Taxpayer Advocates       Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) –
Office, toll-free:                    The FBI, a criminal law enforcement agency, investigates
1-877-777-4778.                       cases of identity theft. The FBI recognizes that identity theft
                                      is a component of many crimes including bank fraud, mail
                                      fraud, wire fraud, bankruptcy fraud, insurance fraud, fraud
                                      against the government, and terrorism. Local field offices
                                      are listed in the Blue Pages of your telephone directory.

                                      Protecting Yourself Against Identity Fraud –

                                      U.S. Secret Service (USSS) –
                                      The U.S. Secret Service investigates financial crimes, which
                                      may include identity theft. Although the Secret Service gen-
                                      erally 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 –

It’s the Law
Federal Law

        he Identity Theft and
       Assumption Deterrence
       Act, enacted by Congress
in October 1998 (and codified, in
part, at 18 U.S.C. §1028) is the
federal law making identity theft
a crime.

Identity Theft and
Assumption Deterrence
Act of 1998
     The Identity Theft and As-
sumption Deterrence Act makes
it a federal crime when someone
                                       used or intended to be used to          or visit
“knowingly transfers or uses,
                                       commit the crime. Pursuant to the       idtheft. State laws enacted at the
without lawful authority, a means
                                       Act, the U.S. Sentencing Com-           time of this booklet’s publication
of identification of another person
                                       mission has developed federal           are listed below.
with the intent to commit, or to
                                       sentencing guidelines to provide
aid or abet, any unlawful activity
                                       appropriate penalties for those         Alabama
that constitutes a violation of
                                       persons convicted of identity           Alabama Code § 13A-8-190
federal law, or that constitutes a
                                       theft.                                  through 201
felony under any applicable state
                                           Schemes to commit identity
or local law.”
                                       theft or fraud also may involve         Alaska
     Under the Act, a name or
                                       violations of other statutes, such      Alaska Stat. § 11.46.565
SSN is considered a “means of
                                       as credit card fraud, computer
identification.” So is a credit card
                                       fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud,          Arizona
number, cellular telephone
                                       financial institution fraud, or         Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 13-2008
electronic serial number or any
                                       Social Security fraud. Each of
other piece of information that                                                Arkansas
                                       these federal offenses is a felony
may be used alone or in conjunc-                                               Ark. Code Ann. § 5-37-227
                                       and carries substantial penalties –
tion with other information to
                                       in some cases, as high as 30 years
identify a specific individual.                                                California
                                       in prison as well as fines and
     Violations of the Act are                                                 Cal. Penal Code § 530.5-530.8
                                       criminal forfeiture.
investigated by federal law
enforcement agencies, including        State Laws                              Colorado
the U.S. Secret Service, the FBI,                                              No ID theft law
                                       Many states have passed laws
the U.S. Postal Inspection
                                       related to identity theft; others are
Service, and SSA’s Office of the                                               Connecticut
                                       considering such legislation.
Inspector General. Federal                                                     Conn. Stat. § 53a-129a (crimi-
                                       Where specific identity theft laws
identity theft cases are pros-                                                 nal);
                                       do not exist, the practices may be
ecuted by the U.S. Department of                                               Conn. Stat. § 52-571h (civil)
                                       prohibited under other laws.
                                       Contact your State Attorney             Delaware
     In most instances, a convic-
                                       General’s office (for a list of state   11 Del Code, § 854
tion for identity theft carries a
                                       offices, visit or
maximum penalty of 15 years
                                       local consumer protection agency        Florida
imprisonment, a fine and forfei-
                                       for laws related to identity theft,     Fla. Stat. Ann. § 817.568
ture of any personal property

Georgia                            Montana                          Tennessee
Ga. Code Ann. § 16-9-120           Mon. Code Ann. § 45-6-332        TCA § 39-14-150 (criminal);
through 128                                                         TCA § 47-18-2101 (civil)
Hawaii                             No ID theft law                  Texas
No ID theft law                                                     Tex. Penal Code § 32.51
Idaho                              Nev. Rev. State. § 205.463-465   Utah
Idaho Code § 18-3126 (criminal);                                    Utah Code Ann. § 76-6-1101-
Idaho Code § 28-51-102 (civil)     New Hampshire                    1104
                                   N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 638:26
Illinois                                                            Virginia
720 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/16G         New Jersey                       Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-186.3
                                   N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:21-17
Indiana                                                             Vermont
Ind. Code § 35-43-5-3.5            New Mexico                       No ID theft law
                                   N.M. Stat. Ann. § 30-16-24.1
Iowa                                                                Washington
Iowa Code § 715A.8 (criminal);     New York                         Wash. Rev. Code § 9.35.020
Iowa Code § 714.16.B (civil)       No ID theft law
                                                                    West Virginia
Kansas                             North Carolina                   W. Va. Code § 61-3-54
Kan. Stat. Ann. § 21-4018          N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-113.20-23
Kentucky                           North Dakota                     Wis. Stat. § 943.201
Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 514.160      N.D.Cent. Codes § 12.1-23-11
Louisiana                          Ohio                             Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 6-3-901
La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 14:67.16     Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 2913.49

Maine                              Oklahoma
No ID theft law                    Okla. Stat. tit. 21, § 1533.1    U.S. TERRITORIES

Maryland                           Oregon                           Guam
Md. Code Ann. art. 27, § 231       Or. Rev. Stat. § 165.800         9 Guam Code Ann. § 46.80

Massachusetts                      Pennsylvania                     U.S. Virgin Islands
Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 266, § 37E     18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 4120        No ID theft law

Michigan                           Rhode Island
Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.219e        R.I. Gen. Laws Sect. 11-49-1.1

Minnesota                          South Carolina
Minn. Stat. § 609.527              S.C. Code Ann. § 16-13-510

Mississippi                        South Dakota
Miss. Code Ann. § 97-19-85         S.D. Codified Laws § 22-30A-
Mo. Rev. Stat. § 570.223

                                Instructions for
                        Completing the ID Theft Affidavit
To make certain that you do not become respon-         the account(s) or access to them.
sible for the debts incurred by the identity thief,          Complete this affidavit as soon as pos-
you must provide proof that you didn’t create the      sible. Many creditors ask that you send it within
debt to each of the companies where accounts           two weeks of receiving it. Delaying could slow the
where opened or used in your name.                     investigation.
      A working group composed of credit grant-              Be as accurate and complete as possible.
ors, consumer advocates and the Federal Trade          You may choose not to provide some of the
Commission (FTC) developed this ID Theft               information requested. However, incorrect or
Affidavit to help you report information to many       incomplete information will slow the process of
companies using just one standard form. Use of         investigating your claim and absolving the debt.
this affidavit is optional for companies. While many   Please print clearly.
companies accept this affidavit, others require that         When you have finished completing the
you submit more or different forms. Before you         affidavit, mail a copy to each creditor, bank or
send the affidavit, contact each company to find       company that provided the thief with the unautho-
out if they accept it.                                 rized credit, goods or services you describe.
      You can use this affidavit where a new ac-       Attach to each affidavit a copy of the Fraudulent
count was opened in your name. The information         Account Statement with information only on
will enable the companies to investigate the fraud     accounts opened at the institution receiving the
and decide the outcome of your claim. (If some-        packet, as well as any other supporting documen-
one made unauthorized charges to an existing           tation you are able to provide.
account, call the company to find out what to                Send the appropriate documents to each
do.)                                                   company by certified mail, return receipt
      This affidavit has two parts:                    requested, so you can prove that it was received.
■ ID Theft Affidavit is where you report general       The companies will review your claim and send
   information about yourself and the theft.           you a written response telling you the outcome of
                                                       their investigation. Keep a copy of everything
■   Fraudulent Account Statement is                    you submit for your records.
    where you describe the fraudulent account(s)             If you cannot complete the affidavit, a legal
    opened in your name. Use a separate Fraudu-        guardian or someone with power of attorney may
    lent Account Statement for each company you        complete it for you. Except as noted, the informa-
    need to write to.                                  tion you provide will be used only by the company
                                                       to process your affidavit, investigate the events
      When you send the affidavit to the compa-        you report and help stop further fraud. If this
nies, attach copies (NOT originals) of any support-    affidavit is requested in a lawsuit, the company
ing documents (for example, drivers license, police    might have to provide it to the requesting party.
report) you have. Before submitting your affidavit,          Completing this affidavit does not guarantee
review the disputed account(s) with family mem-        that the identity thief will be prosecuted or that
bers or friends who may have information about         the debt will be cleared.

                   GOVERNMENT AGENCY
If you haven’t already done so, report the fraud   2. The fraud department at each creditor,
to the following organizations:                       bank, or utility/service that provided the
                                                      identity thief with unauthorized credit,
1. Each of the three national consumer                goods or services. This would be a good
   reporting agencies. Ask each agency to             time to find out if the company accepts this
   place a “fraud alert” on your credit report,       affidavit, and whether they require notariza-
   and send you a copy of your credit file.           tion or a copy of the police report.
   When you have completed your affidavit
   packet, you may want to send them a copy        3. Your local police department. Ask the
   to help them investigate the disputed              officer to take a report and give you a copy
   accounts.                                          of the report. Sending a copy of your police
                                                      report to financial institutions can speed up
■   Equifax Credit Information Services,              the process of absolving you of wrongful
    Inc.                                              debts or removing inaccurate information
    (800) 525-6285/ TDD 1-800-255-0056 and            from your credit reports. If you can’t get a
    ask the operator to call the Auto Disclosure      copy, at least get the number of the report.
    Line at 1-800-685-1111 to obtain a copy of
    your report.                                   4. The FTC, which maintains the Identity
    P Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
     .O.                                              Theft Data Clearinghouse – the federal                                   government’s centralized identity theft
                                                      complaint database – and provides informa-
■   Experian information Solutions, Inc.              tion to identity theft victims. You can visit
    (888) 397-3742/ TDD (800) 972-0322       or call toll-
    P Box 9530, Allen, TX 75013
     .O.                                              free 1-877-ID-THEFT (1-877-438-4338).
                                                     The FTC collects complaints from identity
■   TransUnion                                       theft victims and shares their information
    (800) 680-7289/ TDD (877) 553-7803               with law enforcement nationwide. This
    Fraud Victim Assistance Division                 information also may be shared with other
    P Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92634-6790
     .O.                                             government agencies, consumer reporting                               agencies, and companies where the fraud
                                                     was perpetrated to help resolve identity
                                                     theft related problems.

                GOVERNMENT AGENCY
Name __________________________________ Phone number _______________________ Page 1

                                      ID Theft Affidavit

 Victim Information

    (1) My full legal name is ___________________________________________________________
                                  (First)       (Middle)         (Last)         (Jr., Sr., III)

    (2) (If different from above) When the events described in this affidavit took place, I was known as

         (First)           (Middle)             (Last)                (Jr., Sr., III)

    (3) My date of birth is ____________________

    (4) My Social Security number is________________________________

    (5) My driver’s license or identification card state and number are__________________________

    (6) My current address is __________________________________________________________

         City ___________________________ State _________________ Zip Code ______________

    (7) I have lived at this address since ____________________

    (8) (If different from above) When the events described in this affidavit took place, my address was

         City ___________________________ State _________________ Zip Code ______________

    (9) I lived at the address in Item 8 from __________ until __________
                                             (month/year)     (month/year)

   (10) My daytime telephone number is (____)____________________

         My evening telephone number is (____)____________________

                GOVERNMENT AGENCY
Name    __________________________________ Phone number _______________________ Page 2

 How the Fraud Occurred

    Check all that apply for items 11 - 17:

    (11) ❑ I did not authorize anyone to use my name or personal information to seek the money,
           credit, loans, goods or services described in this report.

    (12) ❑ I did not receive any benefit, money, goods or services as a result of the events described
           in this report.

    (13) ❑ My identification documents (for example, credit cards; birth certificate; driver’s license;
           Social Security card; etc.) were ❑ stolen ❑ lost on or about __________________.
    (14) ❑ To the best of my knowledge and belief, the following person(s) used my information (for
           example, my name, address, date of birth, existing account numbers, Social Security
           number, mother’s maiden name, etc.) or identification documents to get money, credit,
           loans, goods or services without my knowledge or authorization:

              _________________________________            ____________________________________
              Name (if known)                              Name (if known)
              _________________________________            ____________________________________
              Address (if known)                           Address (if known)
              _______________________________              ____________________________________
              Phone number(s) (if known)                   Phone number(s) (if known)
              _________________________________            ____________________________________
              Additional information (if known)            Additional information (if known)

    (15) ❑ I do NOT know who used my information or identification documents to get money,
           credit, loans, goods or services without my knowledge or authorization.

    (16) ❑ Additional comments: (For example, description of the fraud, which documents or
           information were used or how the identity thief gained access to your information.)





    (Attach additional pages as necessary.)

                GOVERNMENT AGENCY
Name     __________________________________ Phone number _______________________ Page 3

  Victim’s Law Enforcement Actions

    (17) (check one) I ❑ am      ❑ am not    willing to assist in the prosecution of the person(s) who
         committed this fraud.

    (18) (check one) I ❑ am ❑ am not authorizing the release of this information to law
         enforcement for the purpose of assisting them in the investigation and prosecution of the
         person(s) who committed this fraud.

    (19) (check all that apply) I ❑ have ❑ have not reported the events described in this affidavit
         to the police or other law enforcement agency. The police ❑ did ❑ did not write a
         report. In the event you have contacted the police or other law enforcement agency, please
         complete the following:

          _____________________________            _________________________________
          (Agency #1)                              (Officer/Agency personnel taking report)
          ____________________________             _________________________________
          (Date of report)                         (Report number, if any)
          _____________________________             _________________________________
          (Phone number)                           (email address, if any)

          _____________________________             _________________________________
          (Agency #2)                              (Officer/Agency personnel taking report)
          _____________________________            _________________________________
          (Date of report)                         (Report number, if any)
          _____________________________            _________________________________
          (Phone number)                           (email address, if any)

  Documentation Checklist

     Please indicate the supporting documentation you are able to provide to the companies you plan to
notify. Attach copies (NOT originals) to the affidavit before sending it to the companies.

    (20) ❑ A copy of a valid government-issued photo-identification card (for example, your driver’s
           license, state-issued ID card or your passport). If you are under 16 and don’t have a
           photo-ID, you may submit a copy of your birth certificate or a copy of your official school
           records showing your enrollment and place of residence.

    (21) ❑ Proof of residency during the time the disputed bill occurred, the loan was made or the
           other event took place (for example, a rental/lease agreement in your name, a copy of a
           utility bill or a copy of an insurance bill).

                 GOVERNMENT AGENCY
Name      __________________________________ Phone number _______________________ Page 4

     (22) ❑ A copy of the report you filed with the police or sheriff’s department. If you are unable to
            obtain a report or report number from the police, please indicate that in Item 19. Some
            companies only need the report number, not a copy of the report. You may want to check
            with each company.


     I declare under penalty of perjury that the information I have provided in this affidavit is true and
correct to the best of my knowledge.

     _______________________________________                  __________________________________
     (signature)                                              (date signed)

    Knowingly submitting false information on this form could subject you to criminal
prosecution for perjury.


     [Check with each company. Creditors sometimes require notarization. If they do not, please have one
witness (non-relative) sign below that you completed and signed this affidavit.]


     _______________________________________                  __________________________________
     (signature)                                              (printed name)

      _______________________________________                 __________________________________
     (date)                                                   (telephone number)

                  GOVERNMENT AGENCY
Name     __________________________________ Phone number _______________________ Page 5

                           Fraudulent Account Statement
                                       Completing this Statement
       • Make as many copies of this page as you need. Complete a separate page for each
         company you’re notifying and only send it to that company. Include a copy of your
         signed affidavit.
       • List only the account(s) you’re disputing with the company receiving this form. See the
         example below.
       • If a collection agency sent you a statement, letter or notice about the fraudulent account,
         attach a copy of that document (NOT the original).

I declare (check all that apply):
   ❑ As a result of the event(s) described in the ID Theft Affidavit, the following account(s) was/were
       opened at your company in my name without my knowledge, permission or authorization using
       my personal information or identifying documents:

 Creditor Name/Address            Account          Type of unauthorized       Date          Amount/Value
 (the company that opened the     Number           credit/goods/services      issued or     provided
 account or provided the goods or                  provided by creditor       opened        (the amount
 services)                                         (if known)                 (if known)    charged or the
                                                                                            cost of the
                                  01234567-89            auto loan            01/05/2002       $25,500.00
  Example National Bank
  22 Main Street
  Columbus, Ohio 22722

  ❑    During the time of the accounts described above, I had the following account open with your company:

       Billing name ___________________________________________________________________

       Billing address__________________________________________________________________

       Account number _______________________________________________________________

                  GOVERNMENT AGENCY
                     The FTC’s Privacy Policy
    When you contact us with complaints or requests for information, you can
contact us online at; by telephone, toll-free at 1-877-
ID-THEFT (438-4338); or by mail: Federal Trade Commission, Identity Theft
Clearinghouse, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20580. Before
you do, there are a few things you should know.
    We enter the information you send into our electronic database – the Identity
Theft Clearinghouse. The Clearinghouse is a system of records covered under the
Privacy Act of 1974. In general, the Privacy Act prohibits unauthorized disclo-
sures of the records it protects, it also gives individuals the right to review
records about themselves. Learn more about your Privacy Act rights and the
FTC’s Privacy Act procedures by contacting the FTC’s Freedom of Information
Act Office: 202-326-2430;
    The information you submit is shared with our attorneys and investigators. It
also may be shared with employees of various other federal, state, or local law
enforcement or regulatory authorities. We also may share information with certain
private entities, such as credit bureaus and any companies you may have com-
plained 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
circumstances, 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.

1-877-ID-THEFT (1-877-438-4338)

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