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A Guide for Victims of Identity Theft

How to Avoid Identity Theft
House File 659

A message from Attorney General Tom Miller:

Dear fellow Iowans,
The goal of this brochure is to help you if you are a victim of "identity theft." Identity theft occurs when someone obtains important personal information, such as your Social Security number, banking or credit card account numbers, to commit fraud or theft

"Identity thieves" commit a kind of financial sabotage. They use people's personal information to open fraudulent credit card accounts, rob retirement earnings, siphon money out of people's accounts, or commit other kinds of fraud.

The Consumer Protection Division of my office has developed this guide to provide you with information and steps to take if you are a victim; whom to contact, what to say, where to write or call, how to repair your credit record, and how to avoid future problems.

I am very sorry if you have been victimized by identity theft, and I sincerely hope the information in this guide will help you.

I encourage you to contact my office if we can provide any more information. Please write to the Consumer Protection Division, Hoover Building, Des Moines, Iowa 50319, or call 515-281-5926.

With best wishes,
Tom Miller
Attorney General of Iowa

A Guide for Victims of Identity Theft

Identity theft crimes are on the rise, causing nationwide concern. Your personal identifying information can be accessed in an increasing variety of ways. An imposter can misuse your information to open fraudulent credit card accounts, secure deposits on cars and housing, obtain employment opportunities, create insurance benefits, and rob retirement earnings. This form of financial sabotage can devastate your credit and require endless hours of telephone and written communication to resolve. In the meantime, you may experience difficulty writing checks, obtaining loans, renting apartments, and even getting hired.

This guide provides victims of identity theft with clear and concise information, and the major resources to contact to resolve the conflicts which remain long after the thief disappears. Unfortunately, the responsibility of identifying and resolving the consequences of identity theft is left largely to the victims themselves. It is important to act quickly and assertively to minimize the damage to your credit reputation. While identity theft is a "crime" which law enforcement officials can prosecute, the perpetrator is often difficult to track. In addition, law enforcement officials cannot clean up the havoc created for you.

In dealing with the authorities and financial institutions, keep a log of all conversations, including dates, names, and telephone numbers. Keep notes on the time spent and any expenses incurred. Confirm all conversations in writing. Send correspondence by certified mail (return receipt requested). Keep copies of all letters and documents.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

1. Credit Bureaus
2. Creditors
3. Law Enforcement
4. Stolen Checks
5. Automatic Teller Machine (ATM) cards
6. Fraudalent Change of Address, Mail Theft, or Other Mail Involvment
7. Secret Service Jurisdiction
8. Social Security Number Misuse
9. Income Tax Fraud
10. Passports
11. Utilities
12. Driver's License Number Misuse
13. False Civil and Criminal Judgments
14. Credit Report Fraud
15. Insurance Coverage
16. Legal Help
17. Making Changes
18. Don't Give In

Credit Bureaus

Immediately call the fraud units of the three credit reporting companies -- CSC Credit Services (Equifax Regional Office), Experian (formerly TRW), and Trans Union. Report the theft of your credit cards or misuse of your account numbers. Request that your credit account be flagged. Also, add a victim's statement (up to 100 words) to your report, such as: "My identification has been used to apply for fraudulent credit. Contact me at [your telephone number or mailing address] to verify ALL applications." Be sure to ask how long the fraud alert is posted on your credit account, and how you can extend it if necessary.
Be aware that these measures may not entirely stop fraudulent new accounts from being opened by the identity thief. Ask the credit bureaus, in writing, to provide you with copies every few months so you can monitor your credit report. Upon your request, a credit bureau is required to provide you with one free credit report during any 12-month period if you have reason to believe the report contains inaccurate information due to fraud. Additional credit reports shall not exceed an $8.00 charge and this fee is often waived. (15 United States Code section 1682j(c)(3))

Request the credit bureaus, in writing, to provide you the names and phone numbers of credit grantors with whom fraudulent accounts have been opened. Request the credit bureaus, in writing, to remove inquiries that have been generated due to the fraudulent access. Request that all fraudulent information and inquiries be permanently removed from your credit report. You may also request the credit bureaus to notify those who have received your credit report in the last six months in order to alert them to the disputed and erroneous information (two years for employers).

Credit Bureau
Report
Consumer Fraud
Request Credit
Report
Get Off Mailing Lists
CSC Credit Services
(Equifax Regional Office)

P.O. Box 674402

Houston, TX 77267-4402
800-272-9281
and write to address at left.
800-759-5979 800-759-5979
and write to address at left.
Experian (TRW)
P.O. Box 1017

Allen, TX 75013
888-397-3742 or
800-301-7195

and write to address at left.
888-397-3742 or
800-682-7654
800-353-0809
and write to:

Experian (TRW)

P.O. Box 919

Allen, TX 75013
Trans Union
P.O. Box 390

Springfield, PA 19064
800-680-7289
and write to:

Fraud Victim Asst. Div.

P.O. Box 6790

Fullerton, CA 92634
800-888-4213 800-680-7293
and write to:

P.O. Box 97328

Jackson, MS 39238



Creditors

Contact all creditors immediately with whom your name has been used fraudulently -- by telephone and in writing. Get replacement cards with new account numbers for your own accounts that have been used fraudulently. Ask that old accounts be processed as "account closed at consumer's request." This is better than "card lost or stolen," because when this statement is reported to credit bureaus, it can be interpreted as blaming you for the loss. Carefully monitor your mail and credit card statements for evidence of new fraudulent activity. Report it immediately to credit grantors.

Victims of unauthorized use of a credit card will be liable for no more than the first $50 of the loss, although this is often waived and victim will not be required to pay any part of the loss. (15 United States Code section 1643)

Request the credit grantor to provide you with a copy of the fraudulent credit application and a statement of the incurred charges. Such information may be helpful in disputing the application and/or charges as fraudulent. If the credit grantor resists providing you this information, contact your local police or sheriff's department for assistance. The credit grantor should readily provide such information when requested to do so by local law enforcement authorities.

Pay particular attention to what personal identifying information the identity thief has provided on the application and note any discrepancies that may exist. When reviewing the charges, note the date of the purchases, where the purchases were made and what type of products or services were purchased. Look for dates, places or items which contradict your own schedule, whereabouts, and even tastes.

Credit requirements to verify fraud You may be asked by banks or credit grantors to fill out and notarize fraud affidavits, which could become costly. The law does NOT require that a notarized affidavit be provided to banks or creditors. A written statement and supporting documentation should be enough (unless the bank or creditor offer to pay for the notary). Overly burdensome requirements by banks or creditors should be reported to the government authority which regulates the credit card issuer. To determine which authority regulates the particular credit card issuer in question, contact:
Iowa Department of Commerce
Banking Division
200 E. Grand Suite 300
Des Moines, IA 50309
Phone: 515-281-4014


Law Enforcement

Report the crime to all police and sheriff's departments with jurisdiction in your case. Give them as much documented evidence as possible. Get a copy of your police report. Keep the telephone number of your fraud investigator handy and give it to creditors and others who require certification of your case. Banks and credit card companies may require you to produce the police report in order to verify the crime.


Stolen Checks

If you have had checks stolen or bank accounts set up fraudulently, report it to the check verification companies listed below. Put stop payments on any outstanding checks that you are unsure of. Cancel your checking and savings accounts and obtain new account numbers. Give the bank a secret password for your account. When creating a password, don't use common numbers like the last four digits of your Social Security number, your birthdate, middle name, mother's maiden name, pet's name, address, consecutive numbers, or anything else that could easily be discovered by thieves.

Check Verification Company Telephone Number Mailing Address
CheckRite 800-766-2748 P.O. Box 520370
Salt Lake City, UT 84152
Chexsystems 800-428-9623
12005 Ford Road #600
Dallas, TX 75234

Equifax 800-437-5120 11602 Roosevelt Blvd.
St. Petersburg, FL 33716
NPC Check Services, Inc. 800-526-5380 P.O. Box 379
Riverdale, NJ 07457
SCAN 800-262-7771 19803 N. Creek Parkway
Bothell, WA 98011
TeleCheck 800-710-9898 P.O. Box 17370
Denver, CO 80217


Automatic Teller Machine (ATM) Cards

If your ATM card has been stolen or compromised, get a new card, account number and password. Do not use your old password or the common passwords and personal identification numbers listed above.

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