A corporate attorney sent this out to the employees in his company. I pass it along for your information after verifying the telephone numbers and adding the website links.
We’ve all heard horror stories about fraud that’s committed us in your name, address, SS#, credit, etc. Unfortunately I (the author of this piece who happens to be an attorney) have firsthand knowledge, because my wallet was stolen last month and within a week the thieve(s) ordered an expensive monthly cell phone package, applied for a VISA credit card, had a credit line approved to buy Gateway computer, received a PIN number from DMV to change my driving record information online, and more.
But here’s some critical information to limit the damage in case this happens to you or someone you know. As everyone always advises, cancel your credit cards immediately, but the key is having the toll free numbers and your card numbers handy so you know whom to call. Keep those where you can find them easily. File a police report immediately in the jurisdiction where it was stolen, this proves to credit providers you were diligent, and is a first step toward an investigation (if there ever is one).
But here’s what is perhaps most important: (I never ever thought to do this) – Call the three national credit reporting organizations immediately to place a fraud alert on your name and SS#.
I had never heard of doing that until advised by a bank that called to tell me and application for credit was made over the Internet in my name. The alert means any company that checks your credit knows your information was stolen and they have to contact you by phone to authorize new credit. By the time I was advised to do this, almost 2 weeks after the theft, all the damage had been done.
There are records of all the credit checks initiated by the thieves’ purchases, none of which knew about before placing the alert. Since then, no additional damage has been done, and the thieves threw my wallet away this weekend (someone turned it in). It seems to have stopped them in their tracks.
The numbers are:
- Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
- Experian: 1-888-301-7195 (formerly TRW)
- Trans Union: 1-800-680-7289
- Social Security Administration: 1-800-772-1213 (fraud line)
(added by me, not included in the original email)
- Calling any one of the three credit reporting agencies should be sufficient as the companies share the alerts.
- It’s also smart to ask your state driver’s licensing agency to flag your old license number for fraud potential when they issue your new license. This may vary from state to state so ask your state’s.
- As of 2004, every individual is entitled to receive a copy of his or her credit report from each of the three agencies listed above. The State of Michigan Attorney General has published an excellent report, Free Annual Credit Reports-What Consumers Should Know, explaining a lot about this topic as well as problems and scams of which you should be aware.
Other web pages:
- Remar Sutton’s very useful list
- Identity Theft Resource Center, Victim’s Guide
- 10 ways to stop identity theft cold
- PBS’s Frontline did an excellent episode on the technology side of the problem (Hackers) and has a good online resouce