Ed VanHoose is the Digital Communications Administrator/IT Manager for the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives
In defense of self
Recovering from identity theft
The July edition of Powered Up discussed emerging Internet scams and how to recognize and avoid them. Since that time, many of you have questioned what to do should you already have fallen victim to identity theft. This edition will focus on solutions to the problem. You do have options. They just may require a little diligence.
First, you should be aware that you are not alone. Law enforcement, from local to the national level, takes identity theft very seriously. Probably the biggest advocate and information source for consumers regarding identity theft is the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). It is the only federal agency with both consumer protection and competition jurisdiction in broad sectors of the economy. The FTC has the resources necessary to help you connect with individuals who can assist you should you experience identity theft.
In a video produced by the FTC, Assistant Director Betsy Broder says, “We know that identity fraud, in its various forms has affected 10 million people in any given year, and what that means in dollars, is that its a loss to businesses of about $50 billion. On top of that, victims of identity theft have spent $5 billion trying to undo this harm.”
That amount of loss definitely has a major negative impact on the economy. In order to combat identity theft, the FTC has come up with four steps that every victim of identity theft should take.
1. Place a fraud alert on your credit reports, and review your credit reports.
Fraud alerts can help prevent an identity thief from opening any more accounts in your name. Contact the toll-free fraud number of any of the three consumer reporting companies above to place a fraud alert on your credit report. You only need to contact one of the three companies to place an alert. The company you call is required to contact the other two, which will place an alert on their versions of your report, too.
2. Close the accounts that you know, or believe, have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.
Call and speak with someone in the security or fraud department of each company. Follow up in writing, and include copies (NOT originals) of supporting documents. It’s important to notify credit card companies and banks in writing. Send your letters by certified mail, return receipt requested, so you can document what the company received and when. Keep a file of your correspondence and enclosures.
3. File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
You can file a complaint with the FTC using its online complaint form; or call the FTC’s Identity Theft Hotline, toll-free: 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338); TTY: 1-866-653-4261; or write Identity Theft Clearinghouse, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20580. Be sure to call the Hotline to update your complaint if you have any additional information or problems. By sharing your identity theft complaint with the FTC, you will provide important information that can help law enforcement officials across the nation track down identity thieves and stop them.
4. File a report with your local police or the police in the community where the identity theft took place.
Call your local police department and tell them that you want to file a report about your identity theft. Ask them if you can file the report in person. If you cannot, ask if you can file a report over the Internet or telephone. If the police are reluctant to take your report, ask to file a “Miscellaneous Incident” report, or try another jurisdiction, like your state police. You also can check with your state Attorney General’s office to find out if state law requires the police to take reports for identity theft.
Following these four steps is a great start to recovering your identity. Be prepared to answer the same questions repeatedly, and keep a journal of your activity, including dates, times and names of the people with whom you speak. It may take some time, but with a little persistence, you will win back control of your identity.
Here is the information you will need to contact the three major credit-reporting agencies. Keep in mind that when you call, you are unlikely to reach a live person immediately. You may have to wade through the digital calling tree to get what you want. Be persistent! You will get there.
Ed VanHoose is the Digital Communications Administrator/IT Manager for the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives in Springfield. He is a specialist in the IT field with over 12 years of experience working in leadership roles for technology based projects in Illinois and Missouri.