Identity theft is a serious crime and it can be financially and emotionally devastating. Identity theft happens when someone uses information about you without your permission. This could be your name and address, credit card or bank account numbers, Social Security number or medical insurance account numbers. Seniors are particularly vulnerable as they can be victimized by unscrupulous caregivers or others who can steal mailed credit applications and fraudulently use them and other personal information to make purchases or borrow money.
How to Protect yourself:
- Shred all unwanted mail as soon as it is received, particularly unsolicited credit applications.
- Have mail delivered to a post office box and have it picked up on a regular basis. Never leave mail out for pick-up. Thieves can steal your mail and gain access to your personal identification information – including bank account numbers. They also can tamper with personal checks, altering them in order to steal your money.
- Be careful about giving out personal information, including your address, Social Security number, or bank account numbers. Provide this information only when absolutely necessary, and only to a business or agency you know to be legitimate. Avoid giving out this information on sweepstakes application cards, commercial surveys, or over the Internet.
- Immediately report identity theft to your local police station. Law enforcement officials are required to take an identity theft report from a local resident. California law allows a victim to send a photocopy of a police report to the major credit bureaus so that derogatory credit information resulting from identity theft can be quickly removed from the victim’s credit history.
STEPS TO TAKE AFTER YOU HAVE BEEN A VICTIM OF IDENTITY THEFT
Step 1: Place an initial fraud alert on your three credit reports
· Call any one of the three credit reporting companies. That company must tell the other two.
Fraud departments of the credit reporting companies:
o Equifax 1-800-525-6285
o Experian 1-888-397-3742
o Transunion 1-800-680-7289
Step 2: Order your credit reports
· Call all three credit reporting companies and order your credit report from each. Identity theft victims can get the reports for free.
· You might know that some of your accounts are affected by identity theft. Contact those accounts now. Talk to someone in the fraud department of the company. Then write the company a letter.
Step 3: Create an Identity Theft Report
· Submit a complaint to the FTC. You can call or do it online.
By phone: Call 1-877-438-4338 (1-866-653-4261 TTY)
o talk to a counselor. The counselor will ask questions to gather information about your complaint
o ask the counselor to email you a link so you can print your complaint. Your completed complaint is called the “Identity Theft Affidavit"
o go online to save or print your Identity Theft Affidavit.
Online: Go to ftc.gov/complaint
o Type your information into the online form, following the prompts on every screen.
o Review all the information you typed
o Click the button to submit your complaint. Your submitted complaint is called an “Identity Theft Affidavit"
o Save the complaint reference number
o Click the link to save the Identity Theft Affidavit to your computer
o Print your Identity Theft Affidavit. Keep it in a safe place
· File a police report. Take your FTC Identity Theft Affidavit with you
o Get a copy of the police report or the number of the police report
· Attach your FTC Identity Theft Affidavit to your police report. That is your Identity Theft Report.