With Thanksgiving and Christmas quickly approaching, it is always a good idea to be vigilant in protecting your identity. Along with serious shopping comes a serious chance of having your identity stolen.
Clients frequently inquire about what can be done about stolen identity and fraudulent charges. The following are steps you should take immediately.
(1) Contact the local police department and file a report of the theft. Be sure to take as much documentation of the ID theft as you can. *(Not all police stations will want to take the report, but the Federal Trade Commission has a Staff Memorandum to Police on the Importance of Taking Identity Theft Police Reports which may be helpful in having the report filed.)
(2) Contact any creditors for the accounts that you believe have been corrupted or fraudulently opened.
a. Ask to speak with the Fraud or Security Department and inform them of the theft. Some companies accept an Identity Theft Affidavit, but some require particular documentation to be provided. Be sure to obtain the specific address to which a dispute letter or ID Theft Affidavit should be mailed. Follow up the conversation with a letter.
b. Request that the company provide all documents underlying the fraudulent activity. By law the Fair Credit Reporting Act section 609(e), provides that creditors must give you a copy of the application or other business transaction records relating to your identity theft free of charge. Creditors must provide these records within thirty (30) days of receipt of your request. In order to obtain these records, you must mail your request to the address chosen by the creditor. Contact the creditor’s fraud department by telephone to find out if the creditor has chosen a specific address.
c. If someone is misusing your existing checking account, accounts, or electronic funds transfers, such as your debit card, you should dispute in writing any charges run up by the identity thief on those accounts. Insist on having debits reinstated. Ask the representative to send you the company’s fraud dispute forms. Dispute any bad checks passed in your name with merchants so they do not start collections actions against you.
(3) Contact the Fraud Department the credit reporting agencies (CRAs). Inform them that you are an identity theft victim and that you wish to place a fraud alert on you file, as well as a victim’s statement requesting a call to you by the credit bureaus before opening or changing credit accounts. An initial 90-day fraud alert will be placed, and this can be extended to 7-years, or a credit freeze can be placed. (As soon as the credit bureau confirms your fraud alert, the other two credit bureaus will be automatically notified to place fraud alerts, and all three credit reports will be sent to you free of charge. The victim should receive confirmation letters from all three CRAs confirming the 90-day fraud alert. If no letter is received, the individual CRA should be contacted, and the victim may be asked to provide additional proof of the identity theft.)
The three major credit agencies and their contact information are:
1. Equifax For Fraud Alerts, call: 800‑525‑6285 and write: P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374‑0241 2. Experian For Fraud Alerts, call: 888‑EXPERIAN (397‑3742) and write: P.O. Box 9530, Allen TX 75013 3. TransUnion For Fraud Alerts, call: 800‑680‑7289 and write: Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92634
(4) Each CRA will provide a free credit report. The victim should review the report. The victim should review the reports for errors. If there are errors the victim will need to contact the CRAs in order to correct the credit reports. The CRAs are required to block fraudulent items that the consumer did not open or that the consumer did not make. Attempting to have the report corrected can be initiated by the victim sending an Identity Theft Report (police report), letter explaining what is fraudulent (highlight areas on the report), and proof of identity.
(6) Contact the Consumer Protection Division of the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office and request an ID Theft Packet at 1‑800‑281‑4418. Complete the ID Theft Affidavit in the packet and return it to this address:Mississippi Attorney General’s Office Consumer Protection Division Post Office Box 22947 Jackson, MS 39225‑2947
(7) Once the identity theft dispute has been resolved with the creditor, ask for a letter from the creditor stating that they have closed the disputed accounts and have discharged you of the fraudulent debts. This letter is the best proof if errors relating to this account reappear on your credit report or the victim is mistakenly contacted again about the fraudulent debt. Keep old files. Although most cases once resolved, stay resolved, in some cases, problems can crop up again.
*Meridian attorney Amanda Evans provided this insightful primer on what to do.
EVANS LAW FIRM, PLLC
2324 Front Street
Meridian, MS 39301
Matthew Thompson is Domestic Relations Lawyer in Mississippi and reminds you to be smart when you shop in stores and online.