Protecting Yourself Against ID Fraud
The 1990's spawned a new variety of crook called an "identity thief." Their stock in trade are your everyday transactions. Each transaction requires you to share personal information: your bank and credit card account numbers; your income; your Social Security number (SSN); and your name, address and phone numbers.
An identity thief co-opts some piece of your personal information and appropriates it without your knowledge to commit fraud or theft. An all-too-common example is when an identity thief uses your personal information to open a credit card account in your name.
Can you completely prevent identity theft from occurring? Probably not, especially if someone is determined to commit the crime. But you can minimize your risk by managing your personal information wisely, cautiously and with heightened sensitivity.
This part of our web site offers links to information on how to lessen your chances of being a victim, and information on how to respond if you have had your "identity" stolen.
Best Single Source of Information
The President’s Task Force on Identity Theft was established by Executive Order 13402 on May 10, 2006, launching a new era in the fight against identity theft.
To read about the task force, click here. The Task Force website links to resources from the Government.
There are a number of online resources you can consult to protect yourself. We've included non-800 numbers when available.
Federal Trade Commission (FTC) — http://www.ftc.gov/
The 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 helps victims of identity theft by providing them with information to help 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 action.
If you've been a victim of identity theft, file a complaint with the FTC by contacting the FTC's Identity Theft Hotline by telephone: toll-free 1-877-IDTHEFT (438-4338); by mail: Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Response Center, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20580; or online: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/consumers/filing-a-report.html.
- Deter, Detect, Defend, AVOID THEFT (pdf)
- Credit Card Loss Protection Offers: They're The Real Steal
- Internet Fraud & Safety
Social Security Administration (SSA) — http://www.ssa.gov/
SSA may assign you a new SSN - at your request - if you continue to experience problems even after trying to resolve the problems resulting from identity theft. SSA field office employees work closely with victims of identity theft and third parties to collect the evidence needed to assign a new SSN in these cases.
The SSA Office of the Inspector General (SSA/OIG) is one of the federal law enforcement agencies that investigates cases of identity theft. Direct allegations that an SSN has been stolen or misused to the SSA Fraud Hotline at 1-800- 269-0271; by fax: 410-597-0118; or write to SSA Fraud Hotline, P.O. Box 17768, Baltimore, MD 21235; or online: https://www.socialsecurity.gov/oig/public_fraud_reporting/form.htm.
SSA publications include:
- SSA Fraud Hotline for Reporting Fraud
- Identy Theft and your Social Security Number
- Social Security: Your Number and Card
You may need to contact the three major credit bureaus, first to obtain a copy of your credit report and then again to correct or amend that report to account for the damage done by the identity thief.
Equifax — http://www.equifax.com/
To order your report, call: 1-800-685-1111
or write: P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
To learn about ID theft, visit Equifax Learning Center.
Experian — http://www.experian.com/
To order your report, call: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742)
or write: P.O. Box 2104, Allen TX 75013
Read Fraud Victim Assistance Process.
Transunion — http://www.transunion.com/
To order your report, call: 800-916-8800
or write: P.O. Box 1000, Chester, PA 19022.
To report fraud, call: 1-800-680-7289 or write: Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92634.
If you're having trouble getting your financial institution to help you resolve your banking-related identity theft problems including problems with bank-issued credit cards contact the agency with the appropriate jurisdiction. If you're not sure which agency has jurisdiction over your institution, call your bank or visit http://www.ffiec.gov/nicpubweb/nicweb/nichome.aspx.
Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) — http://www.fdic.gov/
The FDIC supervises state-chartered banks that are not members of the Federal Reserve System and insures deposits at banks and savings and loans.
Call the FDIC Consumer Call Center at 1-800-934-3342, or write Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Division of Compliance and Consumer Affairs, 550 17th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20429.
Federal Reserve System (Fed) — http://www.federalreserve.gov/
The Fed supervises state-chartered banks that are members of the Federal Reserve System. Call Federal Reserve Consumer Help at 888-851-1920, or write Fedral Reserve Consumer Help, PO Box 1200, Minneapolis, MN 55480.
National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) — http://www.ncua.gov/
The NCUA charters and supervises federal credit unions and insures deposits at federal credit unions and many state credit unions. Call them at 703-518-6360; or write: Compliance Officer, National Credit Union Administration, 1775 Duke Street, Alexandria, VA 22314.
Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) — http://www.occ.treas.gov/
The OCC charters and supervises national banks. If the word "national" appears in the name of a bank, or the initials "N.A." follow its name, the OCC oversees its operations.
Call 1-800-613-6743, FAX 713-336-4301 or write to Customer Assistance Group, 1301 McKinney Street, Suite 3710, Houston, TX 77010.
- Identity heft and Pretext Calling Advisory Letter 2001-4
- How to Avoid Becoming a Victim of Identity Theft. Acrobat Reader is required to view this pamphlet. The latest Acrobat software is available for a free download.
Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS) — http://www.ots.treas.gov/
The OTS is the primary regulator of all federal and many state-chartered thrift institutions, which include savings banks and savings and loan institutions. Call 202-906-6000 or write to Office of Thrift Supervision, 1700 G Street, NW, Washington, DC 20552.
Department of Justice (DOJ) — http://www.usdoj.gov/
The DOJ and its U.S. Attorneys prosecute federal identity theft cases. Information on identity theft is available at http://www.usdoj.gov/ittf/.
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) — http://www.fbi.gov/
The FBI is one of the federal criminal law enforcement agencies that investigates cases of identity theft. Please take a look at Protecting Your Identify.
Internal Revenue Service (IRS) — http://www.irs.gov/
The IRS is responsible for administering and enforcing the internal revenue laws. If you believe someone has assumed your identity to file federal Income Tax Returns, or to commit other tax fraud, contact the IRS. Please take a look at Tax Fraud Alerts.
Also read the Department of States website about Identity Theft and Your Tax Records at http://travel.state.gov/travel/travel_4362.html
U.S. Secret Service (USSS) — www.treas.gov/usss
The U.S. Secret Service is one of the federal law enforcement agencies that investigates financial crimes, which may include identity theft. Although the Secret Service generally investigates cases where the dollar loss is substantial, your information may provide evidence of a larger pattern of fraud requiring their involvement.
U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) — http://www.sec.gov/
The SEC's Office of Investor Education and Assistance serves investors who complain to the SEC about investment fraud or the mishandling of their investments by securities professionals. If you've experienced identity theft in connection with a securities transaction, you can file a complaint with the SEC by visiting the Complaint Center at www.sec.gov/complaint.shtml. Be sure to include as much detail as possible. You can also write to them at SEC Complaint Center, 100 F Street NE, Washington, D.C. 20549-0213, or fax to 202-772-9295.
U. S. Trustee (UST) — www.usdoj.gov/ust
If you believe someone has filed for bankruptcy using your name, write to the U.S. Trustee in the region where the bankruptcy was filed. A list of the U.S. Trustee's Regional Offices is available on the UST web site. Your letter should describe the situation and provide proof of your identity. The U.S. Trustee, if appropriate, will make a criminal referral to criminal law enforcement authorities if you provide appropriate documentation to substantiate your claim. You also may want to file a complaint with the U.S. Attorney and/or the FBI in the city where the bankruptcy was filed.
The U.S. Trustee does not provide legal representation, legal advice or referrals to lawyers. That means you may need to hire an attorney to help convince the bankruptcy court that the filing is fraudulent. The U.S. Trustee does not provide consumers with copies of court documents. Those documents are available from the bankruptcy clerk's office for a fee.