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Identity theft victims, particularly those whose information is used to open new accounts in their name but don't receive the bills, may not discover the crime for months or even years. In fact, sometimes the first sign of fraudulent activity isn't noticed until they start to receive calls from debt collectors.
To stop a debt collector from contacting you, the FTC advises sending a letter to the collection agency telling them that you are a victim of identity theft and do not owe the money. Include copies of supporting documents generated to report identity fraud, such as a police report or Identity Theft Affidavit. If you do not have documentation to support your position, be specific about why the debt is not yours. It is the collector's responsibility to prove you are wrong. For example, if the debt is a result of a credit card that you did not apply for, you are entitled to ask for a copy of the application. You can then prove your innocence by comparing signatures.
If the debt collector is making collections for another company, the debt collector is responsible to tell that company that you may be an identity theft victim. However, you still need to contact the creditor yourself to dispute and resolve the debt.
The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) was established as a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C). The Center serves the law enforcement community, including federal, state, local, and international agencies tasked with combating Internet crime and is the agency for reporting identity theft and fraud that occurs online.
In 2006, IC3 received 207,492 complaint submissions and referred 86,279 of the complaints to federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies throughout the country for further investigation. The majority of referrals were fraud cases. Although Internet auction fraud was the number one reported offense, credit card and computer fraud were in the top seven categories.
IC3 receives and refers criminal complaints exclusively related to cyber crime. Victims can use the online form for reporting identity theft and other Internet crimes. The form can be completed by the victim or through a third party to the complainant.
The more information you can provide, the better IC3 can process your complaint and route it to the appropriate authorities for investigation. You'll be asked to provide the following information in your report:
According to the Federal Trade Commission, the Fair Credit Billing Act established procedures for resolving billing errors, including fraudulent charges, on your credit card accounts. The best method for reporting credit card fraud on your accounts is to send a dispute letter detailing the erroneous information. Write to the creditor using the address given for “billing inquiries” and not the payment address. Include your name, address, account number and a description of the fraudulent information, including the date of the charge and amount. Below is a sample dispute letter for your reference:
Your City, State, Zip Code
Your Account Number
Name of Creditor
Attn: Billing Inquiries
Address (use the address specified for billing inquires)
City, State, Zip Code
Dear Sir or Madam:
I am a victim of identity theft. I am writing to dispute charges on my account that I did not make or authorize. The fraudulent items and charge amounts are as follows:
(List each item and amount separately)
I am requesting that the charge be removed, and any finance and other charges related to the fraudulent amount be credited, as well. I am also requesting that you send a statement that reflects the corrections made.
Enclosed are copies of (a police report, Identity Theft Affidavit or any other reporting documents to prove you are a victim of identity theft) supporting my position. Please conduct your investigation and correct the fraudulent charge(s) as soon as possible. Please contact me if you have questions or require additional information.
Enclosures: (List the items being enclosed)
Send your letter using certified with a return receipt requested as proof of delivery date and receipt by the creditor. Your letter must reach the creditor within 60 days after the first bill containing the fraudulent charges was mailed to you.
For additional information regarding creditor responsibilities to respond to you, visit the Federal Trade Commission website.
After reporting identity theft, victims are given the opportunity to request that the fraudulent information be blocked from appearing on their credit report. The request must be in writing and you will be expected to enclose a copy of any identity theft reporting documents you have, like the ID Theft Affidavit available through the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and/or your police report. Your letter should identify the fraudulent information, and clearly state that the information does not relate to any transaction that you made or authorized. Below is a sample of a blocking letter that would be sent to a consumer reporting company:
Your City, State, Zip Code
Attn: Complaint Department
Name of Consumer Reporting Company
City, State, Zip Code
RE: Request for fraudulent information to be blocked on credit report
Dear Sir or Madam:
I am a victim of identity theft. This letter is to serve as my request for you to block the following fraudulent information in my file. This information does not relate to any transaction I have made or authorized.
Source Name (creditor, bank, etc.):
Type of Account (credit card, loan, etc.):
(Repeat this information for each fraudulent claim)
The above items are also circled on the attached copy of the report I received.
I have also enclosed a copy of my identity theft police report. Please contact me if you need additional information in order to block this information on my credit report.
Enclosures: (List what you are enclosing.)
When you become the victim of identity theft you also become your own caseworker to report identity fraud and keep the momentum going forward to get all issues resolved. If you have good organization skills, they'll come in handy, and if you don't, consider enlisting a trusted friend or family member to help you keep your information organized. Here are a few tips on how to organize your case:
The process of reporting identity theft requires a substantial amount of paperwork to be done by the victim. While it may be time-consuming, it is definitely necessary. In an effort to expedite the reporting process you may discover that federal and state agencies, as well as some local police departments, offer “automated” reports.
Automated reports don't require a face-to-face meeting to record your information. With the exception of giving a report by telephone, it is a self-directed process using forms that can be submitted online or by mail. If you have a choice, forego the automated report and seek to be interviewed personally. Yes, it may take more time out of your day, but it is often more difficult for the consumer reporting agency or information provider to verify your report information if you use automated documents. It is likely that you will need to provide a consumer reporting agency more information or documentation in addition to the automated one.
In some cases, you will find that local law enforcement will be resistant to taking your information to report identity theft. If you have trouble, be persistent. Stress that many creditors require a police report to resolve your dispute. And, if you are told that identity theft is not a crime under your state law, ask to file a Miscellaneous Incident Report instead.
For more information about reporting procedures, contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) online or call the identity theft hotline at: 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338); TDD: 202-326-2502.
|Sheri Ann Richerson|