What is Identity Theft?
Identity theft or identity fraud (true name fraud) is the taking of the victims
identity to obtain credit, credit cards from banks and retailers, steal money from the
victims existing accounts, apply for loans, establish accounts with utility
companies, rent an apartment, file bankruptcy or obtain a job using the victims
name. The Impersonator steals thousands of dollars in the victims name without the
victim even knowing about it for months or even years. Recently criminals have been using
the victims identity to commit crimes ranging form traffic infractions to felonies.
How does the imposter take your identity?
It is easy. All that is needed is your social security number, your birth date and other
identifying information such as your address and phone number and whatever else they can
find out about you. With this information, and a false drivers license with their
own picture, they can begin the crime. They apply in person for instant credit, or through
the mail by posing as you. They often provide an address of their own, claiming to have
moved. Negligent credit grantors in their rush to issue credit do not verify information
or addresses. So once the imposter opens the first account, they use this new account
along with the other identifiers to add to their credibility. This facilitates the
proliferation of the fraud. Now the thief is well on his/her way to getting rich and
ruining your credit and good name.
Where does the impersonator get information about you?
Lots of places- your doctor, accountant, lawyer, dentist, school, place of work, health
insurance carrier, and many others have your identifying information. If some criminally
minded person is working at the office (or just visiting) decides to use this information
to assume your identity, you would not know it. Also if this information is not disposed
of with a shredder, a "dumpster-diver" could pick up the information and begin
the crime against you. You do not need to lose your wallet or have anything tangible
stolen from you for someone to take your identity. If you do not shred your confidential
information, utility bills, credit card slips and other documents, it is easy to "dumpster
dive" your garbage. Much of your information is readily available on the
internet, at courts, and accessible from public documents. Additionally, if someone
obtains your credit report illegally, they have all the information necessary to become
How can you stop the fraud?
As soon as you are made aware of the fraud (usually a creditor will contact you or you
will be denied credit, or you will see charges that are not yours on bills) you must
immediately contact the three major credit reporting agencies
by phone and letter to put a fraud alert on your credit profile. Get copies
of the reports so that you will know which are the fraud accounts, and call the police in
the county where the fraud occurs. You may not be able to stop the fraud immediately. It
is very complex. But this will get you started. You will get step by step instructions
when you order the coaching guide, The Identity Theft Survival Kit to find out what
you need to do. You'll obtain copies of attorney-written sample letters to write to
all the necessary agencies. The computer diskette has fill-in the blanks form letters to
save you hours of retyping. Once you have learned all the facts of your case, write a
100-word statement explaining the situation and have that paragraph added to your credit
What if the police wont take a report?
Many police departments are reluctant to write a report on this type of crime. First of
all, they may tell you that you are not the victim, because the credit grantor, who
lost the money, is the victim. They often want the report to come from the creditor who
many times will not cooperate because it is not cost effective for them to spend the time
and energy to assist the police. They may have already lost thousands of dollars. This
fraud loss (to them!) is viewed as a cost of doing business. It is not fair to you as the
victim, and things have to change, but that is the situation in many places.
Even if the creditor wont prosecute, you must insist that the police take
a report. Speak to the head of the fraud unit, (or white-collar crime unit) of the police
department in the county(s) or cities where the fraud accounts were opened. (If accounts
were opened all over the nation, you may be able to get the secret service involved) You
will need a report to clean up the credit mess.
If you still have trouble, call and write to the Chief of Police (see the letter in the
Identity Theft Survival Kit). You may need to
call the Mayor of the City Council. If you get stuck, contact The California Public Interest Research Group (PIRG,)
or The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse or call
an attorney for assistance.
Should you change your social security number if you are a victim of
In most cases this is a bad idea. You have had that number for many years and it is
attached to many documents, including your credit report and various other private and
governmental documents. If you must change your social security number (this will be an
incredible hassle with the Social Security Administration), your credit reports with your
old social security number will be attached to the reports with the new number. This will
look very suspicious to creditors and employers, and cause further problems in proving
yourself to be the victim instead of the imposter.
Should you cancel all your credit cards even if they have not been invaded
by the imposter-just to be safe?
No. Since your credit worthiness is shaky due to the fraud, you will probably have
a hard time getting new credit in the near future. If you have stopped your credit, you
may have trouble getting loans, a rental car, or even a job. Instead, for those accounts
that have not be touched by the impersonator, immediately notify each credit grantor of
your true accounts, that you are a victim of identity fraud. Set up a new password Put a
fraud alert on these accounts and tell the bank that they are not to change your address
without verification from you in writing from your present address. Do not use a password
with your birth date, mothers maiden name, or any of your present identifiers-not
even your pets name. Make up a strange name and use the same one for all accounts so
you do not get confused.
What if the information in my credit report is wrong?
You can dispute inaccurate information with the CRA. If you tell a CRA that your file
contains inaccurate information, the CRA must investigate the items (usually within 30
days) by presenting to its information source all relevant evidence you submit, unless
your dispute is frivolous. The source (e.g., bank) must review your evidence and report
its findings to the CRA. (The source also must advise national CRAs -- to which it has
provided the data -- of any error.) The CRA must give you a written report of the
investigation, and a copy of your report if the investigation results in any change. If
the CRA's investigation does not resolve the dispute, you may add a 100-word statement to
your file. The CRA must normally include a summary of your statement in future reports. If
an item is deleted or a dispute statement is filed, you may ask that anyone who has
recently received your report be notified of the change.