Anyone can become a victim of identity theft. The effects of identity theft can be devastating and take years to unravel. It is important for you to know how to detect identity theft and what to do if your identity has been stolen. The Nebraska Attorney General’s Office has an Identity Theft Consumer Guide that will help you through the process of protecting yourself should your identity be stolen. In addition, please find information about identity theft below.
What is Identity Theft?
Identity theft occurs when someone fraudulently uses your personal identifying information to take out a loan, open accounts, obtain credit cards or identification, get a tax refund, or do other things that involve impersonating you. Identity theft is a very serious crime that can cause severe damage to someone’s financial well-being and personal reputation if not taken care of promptly.
Protecting Your Identity
While identity theft can happen to anyone, below are some steps you can take to reduce your risk:
- Read your credit card and bank statements carefully and often.
- Know your payment due dates. If a bill doesn’t show up when you expect it, look into it.
- Read the statements from your health insurance provider. Make sure the claims paid match the care you received.
- Shred any documents with personal and financial information.
- Review each of your three credit reports at least once a year. Visit annualcreditreport.com to get your free reports. Federal law requires each of the three nationwide consumer credit reporting companies – Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion – to give you one free credit report every 12 months if you request it.
Detecting Identity Theft
Warning signs that you may be a victim:
- You are denied credit.
- You get a notice from the IRS about a tax debt that you do not believe is yours.
- You find charges on your credit card or withdrawals from your account that you don’t remember making.
- Personal information, credit cards, ATM cards, checks, or IDs have been stolen from you.
- You suspect someone has fraudulently changed your mailing address.
- Your credit card bills stop coming.
- You get bills that aren’t yours.
- You find something wrong with your credit report, such as loans you didn’t take out or accounts you don’t remember opening.
- A debt collector calls about debts you don’t believe you owe.
When Your Identity is Stolen
Act quickly! The longer you wait, the greater the damage. For example, if you alert credit card companies of fraudulent charges within 60 days, federal law limits your liability to $50. For debit cards, if you report within two days, you are only responsible for $50 of unauthorized withdrawals. If you report it within 60 days, your liability is limited to $500. However, if you wait past the 60 days, you may lose any money the thief withdraws.
In addition to the following steps, visit IdentityTheft.gov to receive personalized instructions from the Federal Trade Commission on how to report and recover from identity theft.
Step 1: Close Your Accounts
- If you notice any accounts under your name that have been tampered with or opened without your consent, close or freeze them immediately.
- Call each bank or company and then follow up in writing.
- If there are fraudulent charges or debts on your account or if a new account has been opened, you should immediately file a fraud report with your bank’s fraud department.
- If a new account has been opened without your knowledge and consent, ask the company with which the account has been opened if they have a fraud department. If they do, file a fraud report with that department. If they do not, ask if they will accept the ID Theft Affidavit from the Federal Trade Commission (www.consumer.gov/idtheft). Once you have filled out the ID Theft Affidavit, mail a copy to any of the companies concerned with the fraud you describe in the form, such as banks or creditors.
- If you close an existing account and open a new one, be sure to create new PINs (Personal Identification Numbers), logins, and passwords.
Step 2: Initiate a Fraud Alert
- Place a fraud alert on your credit file and review your credit report. This will make it harder for an identity thief from opening any more accounts in your name. The fraud alert is free.
- You should contact the three nationwide credit bureaus. These bureaus are:
P.O. Box 4500
Allen, TX 75013
P.O. Box 740256
Atlanta, GA 30374
Fraud Victim Assistance Department
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19016
- If you place a fraud alert with one credit bureau, that credit bureau is required by law to contact the other two bureaus. The other bureaus will include the fraud alert in their reports. However, to ensure that the alert is included in your credit file as quickly as possible, you should contact all three credit bureaus immediately.
- Types of fraud alerts:
- Initial Fraud Alert (lasts at least 90 days) – If you suspect that you might be a victim of identity theft, that your wallet/purse is stolen, or if you are a victim of “phishing,” it would be a good idea to place an initial fraud alert. With the initial fraud alert, you are entitled to one free credit report from each credit bureau. You can renew the alert after 90 days.
- Extended Fraud Alert (in your file for 7 years) – You can get an extended fraud alert on your credit report if you are a victim of identity theft and you have provided the credit bureau with an “Identity Theft Report.” This type of fraud alert also entitles you to two free credit reports from each credit bureau within 12 months.
- After a fraud alert has been placed on your credit history, you are entitled to receive a free copy of your credit report from each of the credit bureaus. Request a copy and review your report for the following:
- Accounts you did not open.
- Debts on your account that you did not know about.
- Inquiries from companies you do not know.
- Inaccurate information.
- Consider placing a security freeze on your credit report. If you would like to take this step, please see the section below on security freezes.
Step 3: Report Identity Theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
- The FTC, in conjunction with the FBI, maintains an Identity Theft Data Clearinghouse.
- Complete the FTC’s online complaint form at www.consumer.gov/idtheft. Give as many details as you can. In addition to filling out the form online, you can call 1-877-ID-THEFT (1-877-438-4338) to make your report.
- Based on the information you enter, the FTC complaint system will create your Identity Theft Affidavit. You will need this affidavit to complete other steps.
Step 4: Contact the Police
- File a report with your local police department, and if the identity theft did not take place within your area, file a report with the police department located in the area where the theft took place.
- Go to the local police department with:
- A copy of your FTC Identity Theft Affidavit,
- A government-issued ID with a photo,
- Proof of your address (mortgage statement, rental agreement, or utilities bill),
- Any other proof you have of the theft (bills, IRS notices, statements, etc.), and
- FTC’s Memo to Law Enforcement.
- Go to the local police department with:
- Get a copy of the police report. You may need that documentation to support your claims to credit bureaus, creditors, debt collectors, or other companies. If you are unable to obtain a copy of the police report, be sure to at least get the report number.
Step 5: Fix Specific Problems
|You find any accounts tampered with or opened without your knowledge||Close the accounts immediately. Get new PINs for new accounts.||Credit Bureaus and creditors (banks, credit card issuers), merchants, utility and cell phone companies|
|Your ATM card, credit cards, or checks were stolen||Close the accounts immediately. Get new PINs and passwords for new accounts. Notify each bank and major check verification company. If your checks were stolen, put “stop-payments” on all checks remaining in the stolen checkbook. Ask any check verification company to put a fraud alert on your account.||Banks, credit card issuers, creditors, major check verification companies*, and the police|
|You find inquiries on your credit report that you did not know about||By phone and then in writing, notify the three credit bureaus that unauthorized credit inquiries on your credit history were made and request that those inquiries be removed.||Credit Bureaus|
|You find inaccurate information on your credit report||By phone and then in writing, notify the three credit bureaus and request the information be corrected.||Credit Bureaus|
|You have reason to believe your Social Security number (SSN) has been stolen or misused||Report your allegations to the Social Security Administration (SSA), request a copy of your Social Security Statement, and/or call SSA to verify the accuracy of the earnings reported on your SSN. You may also apply for a replacement card.||Social Security Administration**|
|An identity thief has falsified change-of-address forms, stolen your mail, or committed any other kind of mail fraud in order to get your personal information||Report it to your local post office. Contact your credit card companies, banks, etc. to notify them that your address was fraudulently changed. Have any changes of address done only in writing.||U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS)***|
|You’ve lost your passport, it was stolen, or you believe it is being misused||Contact the United States Department of State through a field office or on their website.||United States Department of State (USDS)|
|You think your name or SSN is being used to obtain a fake driver’s license||Contact the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Make sure you don’t use your SSN as your driver’s license number.||Department of Motor Vehicles|
|You think an identity thief has interfered with your security investments or brokerage account||Report it to your broker or account manager as soon as possible. File a complaint with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.||Your broker/account manager, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission|
|A phone service account has been opened in your name, someone is using your calling card, or unauthorized calls are being billed to your cellular phone||Cancel your account and/or calling card. Use new PINs if you open new accounts.||Your service provider|
|A debt collector contacts you trying to collect on a loan that you did not take out||Write a letter to the debt collector within 30 days. State your reasons why you dispute the debt and include supporting documentation, such as a copy of the police report, or the FTC Identity Theft Affidavit (Step 2).||Debt Collector|
|You have been wrongfully accused of having committed a crime perpetrated by someone pretending to be you||File an impersonation report, have your identity confirmed, and prove your innocence by comparing your information to that of the identity thief.||You may need the assistance of a lawyer, i.e., a criminal defense attorney (public or private) in order to clear your name. Contact the Public Defenders’ Office or the State Bar Association in order to find an attorney.|
|You believe someone has filed for bankruptcy in your name||Write to the U.S. Trustee and include supporting documentation. File a complaint with the U.S. Attorney and/or the FBI||U.S. trustee in the region where the bankruptcy occurred, U.S. Attorney, FBI in the city the bankruptcy was filed.|
*To find out if an identity thief has been passing bad checks in your name: SCAN: 1-800-262-7771.
**Social Security Administration
SSA Fraud Hotline
P.O. Box 17785
Baltimore, MD 21235
SSA Fraud Hotline: 1-800-269-0271
***U.S. Postal Inspection Service
****U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
Also see the following guide provided by the FTC for more detailed steps and sample forms: http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/pdf-0009-taking-charge.pdf.
According to Nebraska law, consumers may place a security freeze on their credit report, prohibiting a credit reporting agency from releasing any information from the report without written authorization. See the Credit Report Protection Act Neb. Rev. Stat. § 8-2601 et seq.
What is a Security Freeze?
When a security freeze is placed on a consumer’s credit report, the credit reporting agency will generally not release a credit report or any other information derived from the file to a third party without the prior express authorization of the consumer or unless disclosure is permitted under the statute. Most businesses will not open credit accounts without first checking a consumer’s credit history. Even if a thief has your name and Social Security number, the thief should not be able to obtain any new credit in your name once a security freeze is placed. A security freeze will NOT lower your credit score.
How do I place a security freeze?
Consumers may request a security freeze online or in writing by certified mail to each of the three credit reporting agencies.
Experian Security Freeze
P.O. Box 9554
Allen, TX 75013
Equifax Security Freeze
P.O. Box 105788
Atlanta, GA 30348
P.O. Box 160
Woodlyn, PA 19094
You will need to supply your full name, address, date of birth, Social Security number, and other personal information.
After three (3) business days from receiving a consumer’s request, the credit reporting agencies will place a freeze on your credit report. After placing the freeze, the agency will send a confirmation and provide the consumer with a unique personal identification number (“PIN”) or password within five (5) days. The freeze will remain in place until the consumer requests that each credit reporting agency remove the freeze.
Can I open new credit accounts if my files are frozen?
Yes, but it may require some advanced planning. You can have a security freeze lifted for a temporary period of time. This may be done by contacting the credit reporting agencies by telephone, fax, or online. Consumers will need to provide their PIN or password and the time period the credit report will be accessible.
How much does a security freeze cost?
For Nebraska residents, there is no charge for placing, temporarily lifting, or removing a security freeze.
How do I remove a security freeze?
Removing a security freeze involves the same process as temporarily lifting the freeze. Consumers may contact the credit reporting agencies by telephone, mail, or online. Consumers will need to provide their PIN or password and other information to verify their identity.
- Sample letters for disputing charges on debit or credit cards
- A detailed guide provided by the FTC of what to do when your identity is stolen.