Fact Finder: Identity Theft

March 10, 2010 

You've seen the testimonials on television or read stories in the newspaper about stolen identites and the nightmare that follows. Could you become a victim of identity theft? The Federal Trade Commission(FTC) estimates that as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year.

What is identity theft? Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personally identifying information, like your name, Social Security number, or credit card number, without your permission, to commit fraud or other crimes.

How does identity theft happen? It starts with the misuse of your personal identifying information such as your name and Social Security number, credit card numbers, or other financial account information. Thieves use a variety of methods to accomplish this; among them dumpster diving which is digging through trash looking for bills or other paper with your personal information on it.

What can you do to protect yourself from identity theft? Perhaps the most important thing you can do to protect yourself is to be aware. Be aware of how personal information is stolen and protect yours.

Take the Identity Theft Quiz and see how well you score!

National Resources

Check out these resouces to better educate yourself before and after identity theft.

FTC's Identity Theft

U.S. Department of the Treasury

Social Security Administration's Fraud Hotline

U.S. Department of Justice

U.S. Postal Inspection Service

Better Business Bureau

Internet Crime Complaint Center

State and Local Resources

NoScamNC- 1-877-5-NO SCAM

Better Business Bureau of Eastern North Carolina

Credit Bureaus

Contact information for the three consumer reporting agencies to place a fraud alert on your credit report.

Equifax- 1-800-525-6285; P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241

Experian-1-888-397-3742; P.O. Box 9532, Allen, TX 75013

TransUnion- 1-800-680-7289; Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790

What to do if it happens to you?

You've been diligent BUT someone STILL steals your identity, here are some steps to take to begin the recovery process.

  • ID Theft Complaint Form- fill out this form in conjunction with a police report to create an Identity Theft Report that will help you to recover more quickly.
  • ID Theft Affidavit- may be required for a variety of purposes, including absolving you of a debt, opening a new account or obtaining an application or transaction records from a company the identity thief dealt with.
  • Sample Letter- Use this sample letter to request information from businesses the identity thief dealt with. This information can be useful to you to show that the thief, rather than you, made the transaction, and to law enforcement by providing information about the thief such as his or her address.
  • Keeping track and knowing your rights-Record the actions you've taken to record the fradulent use of your identity and know your rights under federal law.

Source: ftc.gov

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