Posted By Irene C. Olszewski, Esq. on February 9, 2012
It is a frightening reality but every day, some unlucky innocent person learns that his or her identity has been stolen. If that person happens to be you, be sure to act quickly to avoid further damage.
In December, my office was notified that the identity of one of the men I conserve was possibly stolen. It came in the form of a letter from the IRS informing him that someone else had reported income using his social security number. Just last week, I received a writ from an Illinois lawyer including my guy as a defendant in a lawsuit concerning property owned in that state. He doesn’t own property in Illinois. Heck, he doesn’t own property in Connecticut or any other state, for that matter. He resides in a group home. Wrong guy. Oops!
Yes, it appears his identity was truly stolen. A look at his credit report showed a lot of mortgages and loans in his name. Great. What a mess.
If you are a victim, the first step is to contact the police department where the suspected identity theft occurred, if you can pin it down. For example, if you know that someone applied for a loan in Manchester, Connecticut using your social security number, file a report with the Manchester Police Department. If you don’t know where the theft occurred, contact the police department in your town. There are several reasons you will not want to miss this step.
Contact one of the three major credit bureaus to request a fraud alert and to ask them to include a statement that creditors should get your permission before opening any new accounts in your name. Absent a police report, you can only request a 90-day alert. With a police report, you can request an extended fraud alert that lasts 7 years. You only have to notify one credit bureau as they are required to notify the other two on your behalf. They are: Equifax, Experian and Trans Union.
Order your credit report from all three credit bureaus and examine it carefully. If there are creditors you don’t recognize, contact the creditor and the credit bureaus immediately. Note that you are entitled to a free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus once per year. Even if you don’t think you’ve been the victim of identity theft, you should check your credit reports often. To obtain your free credit reports, go here.
Contact you bank, utility companies, loan companies … anyone with whom you have a legitimate account. Let them know that your identity has been stolen so that all appropriate alerts may be placed on your accounts.
If you suspect that someone may be using your social security number, you should alert the IRS immediately. You don’t want to end up fighting a huge tax bill that doesn’t belong to you.
Contact the post office to determine if anyone has filed change of address forms in your name.
Report the theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Although they don’t get involved in consumer complaints of this nature, the information helps them to investigate fraud and can lead to legal action. They can be reached by calling 1-877 438-4338 or online here.
For information on how to safeguard your identity, go to the Department of Consumer Protection’s tip sheet here.
Most of all, be vigilant. Beware of e-mails asking for personally identifying information. Pay attention to your credit card statements. Don’t give out your passwords.
Wish me luck as I try to solve this nightmare for my conserved guy.
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Disclaimer: The information, comments and links posted on the blog do not constitute legal advice. I will not respond to any specific legal questions in the comments section of this blog. Read my entire disclaimer.
copyright 2012 Irene C. Olszewski