The Financial Crimes Unit recommends taking the following steps should you become a victim of a financial crime:
PLACE A "FRAUD ALERT" OR "VICTIM STATEMENT" ON YOUR CREDIT REPORT
Contact Experian, Equifax, TransUnion and inform them that you are a victim. Ask that they place a "fraud alert" or "victim statement" on your credit report and that they contact you personally prior to the opening of any new accounts. Be sure to order a copy of your credit report for review to make sure that no additional fraudulent activity has occurred. Send a letter to each of the credit bureaus to reiterate your concerns.
NOTE: These "fraud alerts" are only as good as the creditors who see them and choose to adhere by them. Creditors may often gamble with purchases that appear legitimate and simply write off the loss if the sale turns out to be fraudulent.
DISPUTE AND CLOSE ALL ACCOUNTS THAT WERE OPENED FRAUDULENTLY
- Ask the company to send you the necessary forms for disputing fraudulent charges or debits. Check to see if the company will accept the Federal Trade Commission's "ID Theft Affidavit." If the company does not have a special form to dispute the fraud, you may be able to use this letter.
- The Fair Credit Billing Act has established procedures for resolving errors or fraudulent charges on your credit cards. Under the act, you must contact creditors in writing within 60 days from when the creditor would have mailed the erroneous statement. Be sure to send this letter by certified mail, return receipt so that you have proof that the creditor received it. The creditor must acknowledge your complaint in writing within 30 days and must resolve the dispute within 2 billing cycles.
PLACE AN ALERT ON ACCOUNTS NOT YET AFFECTED
- To ensure that no additional accounts are affected, send this letter to all of your unaffected accounts, informing the creditor that you would like to be contacted prior to any changes being made to your account.
CONTACT COLLECTION AGENCIES
- In some instances, your first indication that you are a victim of a financial crime is a call or letter from a collection agency. Send this letter to those collection agencies who contact you.
CONTACT AGENCIES ISSUING YOU PHOTO IDENTIFICATION
In addition to the information stored on credit and debit cards, photo identification such as drivers licenses and passports are equally as enticing to thieves for the information that they contain. If your driver license is stolen, immediately contact the department of motor vehicles in the state where your driver license was issued. Most states will issue you a new driver license and number. Visit www.DMV.org for a complete list of drivers license information by state.
For travelers whose passports are stolen, the U.S. Department of State has a section on their web-site devoted to reporting a lost or stolen passport. This information is entered into the Consular Lost/Stolen Passport System. Passports which are reported as lost or stolen are invalidated and can no longer be used for travel.
FILE A REPORT WITH YOUR HOMETOWN POLICE
- Collect all of your information and documents related to the fraud and report it to the local police. The Federal Trade Commission encourages you to be persistent. Local authorities may tell you that they can't take a report, however a resolution by the International Association of Chiefs of Police has made a victim's hometown police department the standard reporting agency for identity theft.
- A police report is important because many creditors require one to resolve your dispute and credit bureaus will automatically block the fraudulent accounts and bad debts from appearing on your credit report. If you can't get the local police to file a report, be sure to check with the county or state police in your area.
FILE A COMPLAINT WITH THE FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION
- The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the federal clearinghouse for complaints by victims of identity theft. Although the FTC does not have the authority to bring criminal cases, the Commission assists victims of identity theft by providing them with information to help them resolve the financial and other problems that can result from identity theft. The FTC also may refer victim complaints to other appropriate government agencies and private organizations for further action.
- If you have been a victim of identity theft, you can file a complaint with the FTC by contacting the FTC's Consumer Response Center toll free at 1-877-FTC-HELP or using the FTC's website.
ORGANIZE YOUR COURSE OF ACTION
- Clearing your name after a financial crime is both time consuming and complicated and requires an organized and thorough approach in terms of your record keeping and attention to details. Write down the names, dates and information received from everyone that you speak to over the phone or Internet. Keep copies of all the documentation or correspondence that you send and receive.
- Follow up in writing with all the contacts you have made, mailing any correspondence as certified mail/ return receipt requested. Finally, set up a filing system for easy access and maintain records even after the case is closed. Errors may still pop-up years after the situation has been corrected.