Avoiding Identity Theft
Information about avoiding and recovering from identity theft
Identity thieves frequently open new accounts in your name. They often apply for new credit cards using your information, make charges, and leave the bills unpaid. It is also common for them to set up telephone or utility service in your name and not pay for it. Some victims have found that identity thieves applied for loans, apartments, and mortgages. Thieves have also been known to print counterfeit checks in a victim’s name.
The FBI calls identity theft one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States and estimates between 500,000 to 700,000 Americans become identity theft victims each year.
We at Cornerstone Bank encourage you to review these tips and resources to help protect your accounts and personal information.
- Shred any documents, which may have personal information on it, including unsolicited credit applications and convenience checks.
- Do not respond to unsolicited emails.
- Check your credit report regularly.
- Follow up with creditors if your bills do not arrive on time.
- Review your bills for questionable items.
- Do not give out financial information unless you know the person or organization.
- Do not give your personal information over the telephone to an unknown caller. If the caller states that they are a financial representative, hang up and dial the institution to confirm the caller is actually from your bank.
- Closely guard your ATM PIN numbers and receipts.
- Report lost or stolen checks to the bank immediately.
- Deposit outgoing mail at the Post Office. Don’t use the mailbox in front of your home for outgoing mail. Identity thieves steal mail to obtain personal information about you.
- Protect your trash. Identity thieves look through your trash to obtain bank account and credit card information.
What should you do if you think you have been a victim of identity theft?
Document Your Actions
Begin documenting the time and money you spend on straightening out identity theft. In some states, any person found guilty of financial identity theft will be ordered to pay restitution to the victim for any financial loss, including lost wages.
Write down everyone you contacted. Record the name, title, and phone number of each person you spoke with. Also note the substance of what was discussed and any report, case, or reference numbers. Keep copies of any reports or affidavits you send and letters or information you receive.
Contact the Police
Immediately call the police to file a report with your local law enforcement. Ask for a copy of the report, or at the very least record the date, time, and number of the report, the location of the department and the name of the officer taking the report.
Notify the credit bureaus
Contact the fraud departments at each of the three credit bureaus.
- Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
- Experian: 1-888-397-3742
- TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289
Get all three agencies to flag the accounts with a “fraud alert.” Find out from each credit reporting agency how long the fraud alert will remain on your report, and how to extend that time, if needed. Ask that all creditors contact you at a phone number you provide to verify all future applications.
Add a “victim’s statement” to the report; include your name, state the problem, and provide a telephone number where you can be reached.
Have each credit bureau send you a copy of your credit report. These reports will guide you in tracing where and when any fraud occurred to your accounts.
In a few months, order new copies of your credit reports to verify your corrections and changes, and to make sure no new fraudulent activity has occurred. Unfortunately, identity thieves often strike the same accounts again and again. Because of this, it is very important to continue to monitor your credit reports very closely for a while after the initial crime. Even with a “fraud alert,” thieves may still find ways to open new accounts.
Notify financial institutions and credit card companies
Contact the financial institution and or credit card companies where the fraud occurred.
- Open new accounts and have the affected accounts closed.
- Stop payments on outstanding checks.
- Have new PINs and passwords issued.
- Follow up with a letter documenting the date, the name of the person who helped you and what actions were taken.
- Consider contacting all financial institutions and credit card companies where you have accounts.
Contact Cornerstone Bank to report identity theft at 913-239-8100.
Contact the Government Authorities
The FDIC, as a participant in the government wide Identity Theft Task force, has provided a direct link to a new centralized government web site on identity theft. Initially, the site will provide the Task Force's Strategic Plan. The Plan, which represents the input of 17 Federal agencies, including the FDIC, sets out recommendations to prevent identity theft, to assist identity theft victims in recovering, and to prosecute identity theft related criminals. You can access the site by clicking on the following link: www.idtheft.com
It is a good idea to contact other authorities that specialize in identity theft. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) runs the ID Theft Hotline and the ID Theft Data Clearinghouse.
FTC ID Theft Hotline: 1-877-IDTHEFT (438-4338)
FTC website: www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/
There you will find an Identity Theft Affidavit, which will aid in recovering losses due to identity theft and assist in the investigation. The ID Theft Affidavit can assist you in disputing inaccurate information that appears on your credit report as a result of fraud. Keep copies of all affidavits that you send.
If mail service was used in the fraud, contact the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. This agency is helpful if any fraudulent utility bills or apartment leases show up on your credit report.
Mail Fraud Complaint Center: 1-800-372-8347
U.S. Postal Service website: www.usps.gov/postalinspectors
Did You Know?
Under the Federal Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), you have the right to:
- Ask the national credit bureaus to place an initial or extended fraud alert in your file. These alerts require creditors to contact you before opening any new accounts or changing existing accounts.
- An initial alert stays on your file for at least 90 days and entitles you to a free copy of your credit report on file at each of the three credit bureaus.
- An extended alert stays in your file for seven years and entitles you to two free credit reports in a 12-month period from the time the alert was placed.
- Obtain documents relating to any fraudulent transactions made or accounts opened using your personal information. A business that provides credit or products and services to someone who fraudulently uses your identity must give you copies of documents such as applications for credit or transaction records. The business must also provide copies of documents of any Federal, state, or local law enforcement agency you specify. To obtain information, you must supply proof of your identity. Usually this would be the same type of identifying information necessary to open and account. The business may ask you to provide a police report and an identity theft affidavit. You must also:
- Make your request in writing.
- Mail the request to the business at an address it specifies.
- If the business asks, include relevant information about dates and account numbers.
P.O. Box 74021
Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
Report Fraud: 1-800-525-6285
Order a Credit Report: 1-800-685-1111
P.O. Box 9532
Allen, TX 75013
Report Fraud: 1-888-397-3742
Order a Credit Report: 1-888-397-3742
Fraud Victim Assistance Division
P.O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92834-6790
Report Fraud: 1-800-680-7289
Order a Credit Report: 1-800-916-8800