Consumers Are NOT Helpless Against Identity Theft
by: Michael Kabel
The Federal Trade Commission, which handles and assists consumers with crimes and wrongdoings, reports that now 42 percent of their complaints involve identity theft or identity fraud. It's their single largest source of complaints, and while the number of identity theft victims has in recent years held steady, the amount of damages nonetheless remains staggering: the average identity theft victim will find more than six thousand dollars in fraudulent charges on their credit report.
Already a thriving criminal industry that does upwards of fifty six billion dollars in damages each year, identity theft has naturally become a source of great concern among government and law enforcement officials. The 1998 Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act, which makes identity theft a criminal offense, offers very clear defenses and mens of resolution to identity theft victims.
The first step is to contact a credit reporting bureau.
According to the Better Business Bureau, consumers realize they're the victims of identity theft in less than half of all cases. The majority is informed by the police, credit reporting agencies, or loan and bill collectors.
The FTC recommends contacting one of the three major credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion – and requesting a fraud alert be placed on their credit records immediately upon finding a potential identity theft discrepancy. The alert is good for 90 days and will protect the consumer from certain obligations and responsibilities incurred by identity thieves.
The consumer should review their credit reports and all credit card and financial statements. Any accounts that have been tampered with or invaded should be closed immediately.
Contacting the FTC is a crucial step.
The next step should be to contact the FTC for help in dealing with the identity theft's effects and to formally file a complaint. The FTC recently debuted a special Identity Theft Affidavit, which simplifies the paperwork necessary to earn government protection and recognition related to the fraudulent theft. The affidavit can be used with many different credit organizations. Consumers can retrieve the affidavit form as well as other resources by contacting the FTC at www.ftc.gov/idtheft or by calling 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338).
How to file a report with your local police
Following the FTC complaint, consumers should also file an Identity Theft Report with their local police agency. Copies of the FTC's ID Theft Affidavit and complaint should be brought to the police station when making out the complaint.
Because identity theft is not a violent crime, resource-strapped police departments are sometimes slow to build investigations concerning identity theft. Nevertheless, consumers should obtain copies of the police report to show creditors and collection agencies that an investigation is in fact underway.
Other important resources
The IRS is available to assist in identity theft cases related to stolen tax record information. Their number is 1-800-829-1040.
The Postal Inspection Service investigates crimes related to stolen or illegally redirected mail. Consumers can fill out a complaint form online at the USPS website: http://postalinspectors.uspis.gov/forms/idtheft.aspx.
The Social Security Administration also provides resources for resolving issues related to stolen or fraudulent use of a social security card. Their online form is available at https://www.socialsecurity.gov/oig/public_fraud_reporting/form.htm.
Finally, the nonprofit Identity Theft Resource Center has strategies and assistance available free of charge. Consumers can contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling its Victim Assistance Center at (858) 693-7935.