Friday, January 24, 2014

Identity Theft - what to do if your identity is stolen

If you are a victim of identity theft, you must file a police report with your local law enforcement agency and keep a copy of that report.  Many banks and credit agencies require such a report BEFORE they will acknowledge that a theft has occurred.

The 3 primary credit reporting bureaus are - Equifax, Experian and Trans Union - you need to place a security alert or freeze on your report.

Then request a copy of your credit report and review it for unauthorized account activity.  Then immediately report any unauthorized charges and accounts by phone AND follow up by writing a letter to confirm the telephone conversation!

If your wallet or purse is stolen, immediately cancel your credit and debit cards and order replacements.  Put a "stop payment" on all lost or stolen checks.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has authority to prosecute identity theft at the federal level.  Contact them at

Also check out for more information on this topic.

The FTC has a new called the ID Theft Affidavit that you might want to download and use too.

The federal legislation that makes identity theft illegal is known as THE IDENTITY AND ASSUMPTION DETERRENCE ACT OF 1998.

Texas law makes it a felony to steal another person's identity, and the person can be imprisoned and order to reimburse the victim for loss income or other expenses, but NOT attorney fees.

If you are interested in learning more about other laws, you might look at the FAIR CREDIT REPORTING ACT which helps you make corrections to your credit report, and the FAIR CREDIT BILLING ACT which helps you resolve billing errors on credit card accounts.  Plus, there is the ELECTRONIC RFUND TRANSFER ACT which applies to debit and credit cards and other electronic funds transfers.

Remember, some identity theft is done by someone that you know - relatives, friends, fellow employees or unhappy ex-relatives.  Do not ever give anyone your Social Security Number.
Your friends and relatives probably know where you live, work, your phone numbers and date of birth and maybe your TX Driver's License.  Hide your SS card from everyone!

There are companies out there that claim they can help you.  I've tried a couple and not been highly impressed by their services.  Right now I'm using Life-Lock after my cell phone was stolen during the past year.  I was lucky and the thief only had the phone for 2 hours before I discovered the loss and I was able to remotely erase the phone and turn it into a "brick"!

"Google" yourself and see how much information shows up on you.  I recently did this and was shocked to find out that many of my former home addresses show up on FREE people searches. Interestingly, some of the addresses that appeared I had never lived at so I'm not sure how these companies compile their information.  I had to go to each website & ask to be removed from their "public viewing".  I don't know how many actually removed my info.

If act you quickly and are pro-active, then your liability is limited to $50 per credit card and you are NOT liable for charges made after you report the card lost or stolen.

ALWAYS look at your monthly charge invoices and your bank statement for problems.  The burden is on YOU to move quickly if you see any suspicious activity.

In Texas a victim of identity theft can petition the district attorney for assistance in having their misappropriated identity redacted from court records if the identity was misused in a criminal proceeding.  Contact a criminal lawyer if this has happened to you.

The State of Texas also have has a "phishing" statute - TEX BUS & COMM Code Section 48.001

An identity theft victim may file a declaration with the DPS to create a PIN for their driver's license to prevent misuse by an identity thief - TEX GOV'T CODE article 411.0421

To request a security "freeze" on your consumer file with a consumer reporting agency you must send written notice by certified mail to a consumer reporting agency - TEX BUS & COMM Code Section 20.034.

I hope this post is helpful to you.  If you are a victim of identity theft, I am so sorry.  It is very time consuming and scary.  Good luck!

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