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Wednesday, June 19, 2024   

Protecting Yourself Against Identity Fraud
by The FBI
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.
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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 loans.

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 agency.

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 personal information.

7. Ensure that your PIN numbers cannot be observed by anyone while you're utilizing an ATM or public telephone.

8. Close all unused credit card or bank accounts.

9. Contact your creditor or service provider if expected bills don't arrive.

If you believe you have been victimized:

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 be verified.

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 crime.

For more information go to the FBI's Website.



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