Protecting Yourself Against Identity Fraud
|The Federal Bureau of
Investigation (FBI) is the investigative arm of the US Department of Justice.
The FBI's investigative authority can be found in Title 28, Section 533 of the
US Code. Additionally, there are other statutes, such as the Congressional
Assassination, Kidnapping, and Assault Act (Title 18, US Code, Section 351),
which give the FBI responsibility to investigate specific crimes.
Identity Fraud is one of the fastest
growing White Collar Crimes in the nation. The perpetrators consider
this a "faceless" crime, since their targets are financial
institutions or retail stores. Little if any thought is ever given
to the harm their actions bring to the individuals whose identities
they have stolen.
Identity Fraud is the criminal
misappropriation of another person's identity: identifying data such
as name, birth date, Social Security number, mother's maiden name,
and other personal information. All such thieves need to perpetrate
this crime is a name, Social Security number, and birth date, all
easily found on driver's licenses, personal checks, and unsolicited
credit card offers. In addition, identity thieves may search your
mail for this information via newly issued credit cards, bank and
credit card statements, junk mail, tax information, or bill
payments. Sometimes these imposters utilize scams in which they file
change of address cards so a victim's mail is sent elsewhere, then
utilize the mail to obtain the documents needed to impersonate the
victim. Thieves also dig through garbage bins, known as
"dumpster diving," to obtain credit card slips, loan
applications, bank statements, and even medical records.
Unscrupulous employees who have access to personnel records or other
identification information have been known to provide this
information to thieves or utilize this information themselves to
perpetrate this fraud.
Information gathered by federal
agencies tasked with addressing Identity Fraud reveals that the top
five complaints for this type of crime are new credit card openings,
existing credit card account usage/change, cellular telephone
service obtained, new bank account openings, and newly-obtained
By being vigilant in all of your
financial matters, you become the first line of defense in reducing
your chances of becoming a victim. We urge individuals to:
1. Order and closely review biannual
copies of your credit report from each national credit reporting
2. Remove your name from mailing
lists for preapproved credit lines.
3. Remove your name from marketers'
unsolicited mailing lists.
4. Only release your personal data
(Social Security number, date of birth, bank account or credit
account numbers, etc.), to agencies who require it for action you
have initiated. Never give this information to unsolicited telephone
callers or over the Internet.
5. Request that the Department of
Motor Vehicles assign an alternate driver's license number if it
currently features your Social Security number.
6. Shred all documents containing
7. Ensure that your PIN numbers
cannot be observed by anyone while you're utilizing an ATM or public
8. Close all unused credit card or
9. Contact your creditor or service
provider if expected bills don't arrive.
If you believe you have been
1. Notify your local police and file
a complaint. If your loss is $1,000 or greater, you may also contact
your local FBI office.
2. Immediately contact credit
reporting agencies and request that a security alert be placed on
your account. Follow up with a written letter.
3. Request and carefully review a
copy of your credit report for other false accounts or information.
4. Contact each creditor on your
credit report and request that any unusual activity be flagged and
verified with you. Any creditor with fraudulent accounts in your
name should be advised that the account is fraudulent. Request a
copy of all documents related to the account and demand that the
account be closed immediately. Follow up each conversation with a
letter detailing the exact circumstances and action requested.
5. Do not pay any bill or charges
that result from identity theft.
6. Contact your financial institution
and request new account numbers, ATM cards, and PIN numbers.
7. Request a new driver's license
with an alternate number from the Department of Motor Vehicles, and
ask that your old number be flagged so that any attempted use can be
immediately known and reported.
8. Contact the Social Security
Administration and advise them of your situation. Request their
assistance by issuing you a new number and flagging your old number
for fraudulent use.
9. Contact the post office and
telephone company to ensure that no billing changes are made to your
account without a written request from you. Request that all changes
10. As appropriate, contact an
attorney to help ensure that you do not continue to be victimized
while attempting to resolve this fraud.
11. The Federal Trade Commission
(FTC) provides additional material which identifies steps you may
take to prevent becoming a victim of this fraud or what to do if you
become victimized. Reach them at 1-877-FTC-HELP or www.consumer.gov/idtheft.
12. Be persistent and follow up.
Recognizing the serious nature of
identity fraud and the long term ramifications to its victims, the
Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act of 1998 criminalized
fraud in connection with the unlawful theft and misuse of personal
identifying information, regardless of whether it appears in or is
used in documents. Violation of the provisions of this Act can
result in imprisonment of up to 15 years and fines, or both. In
addition, the Act also provides for the forfeiture of any personal
property used in the crime, and tasked the FTC with creating and
maintaining an Identity Theft Consumer Complaint Center to refer
complaints to law enforcement as appropriate (see #11 above).
By keeping abreast of your personal
finances and following the suggestions listed above, you may be able
to prevent or minimize losses due to this insidious and destructive
For more information go to the FBI's