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Identity Theft: Will You Be the Next Victim?

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FIGHT FRAUD
DailyFeed
Identity theft is sweeping the nation, ripping off citizens and even the federal government.  If you haven't been a victim yet, you could be next.

I was recently informed by the IRS that I had been the victim of identity theft. Some yahoo down in Florida had submitted a fraudulent return using my name and Social Security number. Upon further review, the IRS discovered that already 60 checks had gone to the same address in Florida. Duh.  

My accountant was very helpful and gave me a checklist of items that have to be done quickly to avoid further damage. One of the items on the checklist was to immediately file a police report with my local precinct.  I called the Greenwich, Connecticut, police non-emergency number and they dispatched a squad car to my home.  I soon realized the scope of the problem after talking with the officer.  

He told me the case eventually would move on to the FBI as identity theft has become an epidemic in this country and is believed to be international in scope.  I was given a case identification number. You will see later why this step is so important in the identity theft checklist below:
  • Call the IRS and inform them you believe you are a victim of identity theft. (Often the way you will find out that something is amiss is when you don't receive your refund check.  It may have been issued to the thief who has assumed your identity).
  • Contact the Federal Trade Commission (877-438-4338). After you contact them by phone, you will be sent an Identity Theft Complaint Affidavit.
  • Contact your local police department and tell them you have been a victim of identity theft.  Make sure you get a case number and follow up in a few days to get the full police report. 
  • Contact one of the three credit bureaus: Equifax at 800-525-6285, Trans Union at 800-680-7289, or Experian at 888-397-3742.
This will be the most difficult part of the process.  Don't let them give you the runaround.  Most of the people you talk to will be hellbent on selling you a service.  Tell them you are entitled to make a victim-of-fraud statement that will be put into your credit history.  I found Equifax the most helpful; they worked diligently to make sure I was taken care of.  The service representative reviewed my credit to see if any fraudulent accounts had been opened.  Fortunately I was OK.

It is probably a good idea to review your credit reports once every couple of months and look for any errors or fraud. All three companies offer a service at varying degrees of cost.  Remember you are entitled by law to a free copy of your credit report at least once a year.  

Don’t forget to send them a full copy of the police report. They will need this to keep your fraud alert on file for more than 90 days. All three companies are required to pass on your victim statement to the other two bureaus, however it is probably a good idea to call all three after a few days to follow up.  

I hope none of you will have to use this information, but given the scope and size of the epidemic, chances are you will.
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