Types of Identity Theft Tips

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What is Social Security Identity Theft?

Most Damaging ID Theft is From a Stolen Social Security Number

Cleaning up the mess that occurs with credit identity theft is easy compared to the recovery and rebuilding needed after the massive destruction that can take place from social security identity theft.

Damages from stolen credit cards, bank accounts, phone numbers, and other account-based credit extensions can often be remedied with a simple four-step process: identifying fraudulent charges, notifying the appropriate agencies and organizations, closing the affected accounts, and establishing new accounts. But when it comes to your social security number, it's not as easy as canceling it and getting a new one. And even if you qualify, getting a SSN may cause more problems instead of solving them.

It is in very rare cases that you can get a new Social Security Number (SSN) issued. That means you are likely to experience residual and ongoing credit issues if someone is using your SSN to open new account after new account and leaving you to deal with the damage done to your credit rating. You could be battling credit damage for years.

Typically, the Social Security Administration (SSA) does not provide victim assistance and will consider changing your SSN only if you fit their fraud victim criteria. To find out if you qualify, contact the SSA at 800-772-1213. You can also review the Identity Theft Resource Center's Fact Sheet 113, outlining the pros, cons and procedures for acquiring a new SSN. If your SSN card was lost or stolen, you can apply for a replacement card by visiting your local SSA office or by completing the application online. You will be asked to provide verification documents such as a birth certificate and / or government ID.

What is criminal fraud?

Criminal Fraud ID Theft Forces Victims to Prove Innocence

Imagine being pulled over by law enforcement because your taillight is burned out. After handing the officer your license and registration, you wait patiently for the routine ID check so you can be on your way, with a citation to get the light fixed. But, instead of sending you on your way, the officer asks you to step out of your vehicle, places you in handcuffs and informs you that you are under arrest. If you're a law-abiding citizen without so much as a single traffic violation to your name, chances are that you are the victim of criminal fraud.

One of the more devastating types of identity theft is when someone is arrested for a crime and uses your name and personal information when booked. Suddenly, you have a criminal record to clean up, could find yourself unjustly jailed, and it will be your responsibility to prove your innocence. While this might make a compelling script for a television movie, cases of identity theft involving criminal violations can quickly become a real-life nightmare for the victim.

The steps to expunge your criminal record vary depending on the state you live in. However, the first order of action is to file an impersonation report with the police department and provide all requested documentation, including a photo and fingerprints, to verify your identity so it can be compared with the original arrest report of the impostor. Once you are issued a clearance letter, you will need to keep the document with you at all times in case you are wrongly arrested again.

For more information about proper procedures, contact your state Attorney General's office.

Can your identity be stolen from people entering your home?

Protect Yourself from Identity Theft Inside Your Own Home

You should be careful about your personal information and data on the Internet by only using secure sites and making sure your credit card information isn't available to hackers. But did you know that identity thieves have an old fashioned way of getting information they want right out of your home?

People such as home health care workers giving care to the elderly, repairmen fixing leaking pipes or broken windows, housekeepers, relatives and friends all have access into your home. While we would like to believe that nobody that we know will steal from us, unfortunately it does happen. Follow these simple tips to keep your personal information safe in your home.

Tip #1: Look at Mail Immediately

Even if you know that your mail is a credit card statement, you should still open the letter and not leave it lying around where someone can grab it up while leaving. Place important mail that you need to address immediately into a drawer. Don't leave it in open view.

Tip #2: Shred Mail You Don't Need

Always destroy mail and other documents that hold information such as social security numbers, credit card numbers and bank account numbers. This prevents thieves from getting the information from out of the trash.

Tip #3: Lock It Away

All your important documents -- birth certificates, passports, and statements -- should be placed in a locked drawer or safe that only you know the combination to or have the key to open. You won't have to worry about anyone getting at your information.

What exactly is phone fraud?

Pay Attention to Phone Bills to Detect and Stop Phone Fraud

Identity thieves are a non-discriminatory bunch. Anything and everything is considered fair game if they can attach the liability to you while they benefit as long as possible without getting caught. So in addition to having money stolen from bank accounts, or having purchases and cash advances made to your card(s) after becoming a victim of credit identity theft, you're also a likely target for phone fraud.

If you suddenly notice a spike in phone charges on your monthly bill to phone numbers you don't know, immediately cancel the account. Open a new account with a new PIN. It's also a good idea to add a password to the account that must be used whenever an attempt is made to change account information.

More serious cases of identity theft via phone fraud occur when the thief establishes a new phone account in your name with bills going unpaid that you never see. You won't realize that anything is amiss until the damage appears on your credit report.

If you have trouble getting fraudulent charges removed from your local phone account or can't close an unauthorized account, contact your state Public Utility Commission. For fraudulent cellular phone charges and long distance, contact the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) online or call 888-CALL-FCC. You can also write to them at: Federal Communications Commission, Consumer Information Bureau, 445 12th Street SW, Room 5A863, Washington, DC 20554.

Is there such a thing as student loan fraud?

Student Loan Fraud Attracts Thieves Because of Deferred Payment Terms

If you've been a victim of identity theft, don't be surprised if you find that your credit history shows you are liable for the default on a student loan. Thieves are attracted to types of identity theft that put cash in their hands and student loans are no exception.

In comparison to other cases of identity theft, the application and acquisition of student loans can be more attractive than bank loans because student loans carry with them deferred payment terms. Those deferred payment terms translate into deferred discovery of the actual theft by the victim. That gives the thief an extended amount of time to put distance between him/herself and any traceable association with the theft.

Keep a close watch on your credit report details. If you've been the victim of identity theft or identity scams, the activity shown on your report, like student loans, or any other default of account payments or bank loans, may be deferred and not show up for several months beyond discovery that your identity had been stolen.

If you determine that an identity thief used your name and personal information to obtain a student loan, contact the school or program that granted the loan and ask for the account to be closed. Additionally, report the fraudulent loan to the U.S. Department of Education. You can call the Inspector General's Hotline at: 800-647-8733, write to: Office of Inspector General, U.S. Dept. of Education, 400 Maryland Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20202-1510.

What is passport fraud?

Passport Fraud Threatens International Safety

Since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, international travel has experienced changes in the way both people and their property are cleared for passage. Existing procedures were tightened and extra security measures have been added for everything from baggage checks, to non-passenger area restrictions, and to confiscation of items that could be used as weapons.

Of the most menacing types of identity theft, passport fraud could well prove to be cause for alarm. While credit card identity theft and bank fraud threatens individuals and upsets their personal history, passport fraud – at its most frightening level – has the potential to threaten the security and safety of entire nations.

If you've lost your passport, or if it has been stolen along with other documents, it is imperative that you report it immediately by contacting the U.S. Department of State (USDS) in Washington, DC. However, even if you do not own a passport but you have been the victim of identity theft, it is just as important to contact the USDS to alert them of the potential for possible use of your information to submit a fraudulent passport application.

For more information or to report your lost or stolen passport, contact the USDS online or send a notification letter to: U.S. Department of State, Passport Services, Consular Lost/Stolen Passport Section, 1111 19th St. NW, Suite 500, Washington, DC 20036.

What is a “credit card bustout” for bankruptcy fraud?

Credit Card “Bustouts” May Be Sign of Bankruptcy Fraud

Credit identity theft doesn't start and stop with a single credit card account that can be closed, with all fraudulent charges dismissed. Severe cases of identity theft can go much deeper, with thieves establishing new accounts in your name, running up a significant amount of debt in a short amount of time (known as credit card “bustouts”), and then filing for bankruptcy. With purchases and cash advances in hand, he/she moves on to the next victim, leaving your credit history in shambles. You are the one who will have to clean up the mess.

If you suddenly find yourself being turned down for a loan or credit account, get a copy of your credit report and review it. If you find that a bankruptcy has been filed in your name, determine where the bankruptcy was filed and write to the U.S. Trustee in that region. A list of U.S. Trustee Programs' Regional Offices is available online or check your phone book under U.S. Government Bankruptcy Administration.

In your letter to the U.S. Trustee office, include information about the identity theft and submit documentation to prove your identity. If your documentation substantiates your ID theft claim, the U.S. Trustee will then make a criminal referral to law enforcement authorities. No legal representation or advice is available so you may have to hire an attorney to present your case to the bankruptcy court.

In addition to filing your claim with the US Trustee office, you can file a complaint with the U.S. Attorney and the FBI in the city where the bankruptcy was filed.

What is Mail Theft?

Mail Theft is a Common Tactic Used by Identity Thieves

Typically, credit identity theft is associated with victims losing their credit cards or having numbers pilfered from databases and receipts. Yet, an often overlooked but common tactic used by identity thieves is mail theft. Think about all of the documents that are delivered directly to your mailbox. You receive bank statements, credit card statements, newly issued cards and renewed driver's licenses. Add to that tax information, loan and mortgage documents, insurance forms and pre-screened credit offers. Your mailbox is a hotbed for identity thieves – and the potential damages to your credit history can go way beyond credit card identity theft.

Stealing directly from mailboxes in the dead of night or wee hours of the morning is one way for thieves to commit mail fraud. However, a more efficient system is to simply falsify a change-of-address form that will forward all of your mail to a pay-as-you-go mailbox number that can be quickly discontinued and difficult to trace. Individuals pay for it in cash or use other falsified information.

Safeguards include having a locked mailbox and reducing the amount of mail you receive by switching to online-only account statements, opting out of credit offers and, when feasible, volunteering to pick up documents containing sensitive information rather than having it mailed.

If you suspect mail theft, contact the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS). The USPIS investigates cases of identity theft and has primary jurisdiction in matters that infringe on the integrity of US mail delivery. Call your local post office to locate the USPIS district office nearest you.

What is investment fraud?

Beware of “IRA Approved” Investment Offers

Like other types of identity theft, investment fraud occurs in different ways. One way is when a stockbroker or financial advisor counsels an investor in a manner that goes against the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) guidelines. Also called brokerage fraud, this is typically an “inside” act committed by an employee of a legitimate business. File a complaint with the SEC and the brokerage firm immediately if you suspect mishandling of your account.

A second type of investment fraud is when an identity thief gains access to and tampers with your investment accounts to transfer funds or redirect them to bogus investment schemes. Keeping a close eye on your account activity will help you to quickly discover and report discrepancies.

A third type of investment fraud is one that victims unsuspectingly initiate. The recent shift from employer-controlled pensions to self-directed plans has opened the floodgates for investment schemes that attract individuals who are ill-equipped to make wise investment decisions. One of the most common of these identity theft scams is the “IRA Approved” investment scheme. Promising incredible return percentages, these identity scams offer the “latest and greatest” investment opportunities – from technology-based investments, to exotic livestock, to real estate investment pools.

Formerly promoted heavily through telemarketing, these scams are now often promoted via infomercials and radio or direct mail advertising. Potential victims initiate the first call, hoping to catch a financial tidal wave for retirement. They are lured in with the assurance that the investment is “IRA Approved” or a “sanctioned” investment. There is no such thing. The IRS does not endorse, approve or sanction specific investments. Tens of thousands of people have handed over millions of dollars to this type of scheme. What should you do?

Hundreds of enforcement actions have been made and recorded against “IRA Approved” investment scams. Before making any investment, contact your state securities division for information about specific claims and warnings.

What is “Phishing”?

How to Avoid Online Phishing Scams

Phishing is one of the most common types of identity theft committed online. Thieves “phish” to capture your personal information via e-mail, just as fishermen do who troll the lakes and streams to attract and catch unsuspecting fish.

Any kind of information is fair game in phishing identity theft scams. Passwords. Account numbers. Bank information. Social Security numbers. PINs. Your best defense is awareness. The request for bank account verification is one of the most familiar examples of identity theft phishing scams. Here is how it is done, and what you should do if one lands in your e-mail “In” box:

How it is done: You receive an e-mail from what appears to be your bank or one of your credit card issuers. The e-mail may explain that the bank/credit card company is doing a routine verification of customer information. For your convenience, an active link is embedded in the e-mail for you to click on to be immediately taken to your account page. Don't do it! Identity thieves use embedded links to take you to cloaked sites where you willingly give them all the information they ask for.

What to do: Use your browser to log into your account as you normally would. If updates or verifications are required, there will be a notice on the company's site. If there is no such notice, forward the e-mail you received to the company immediately so it can take steps to report the offenders and notify customers of fraud attempts.

Thieves rely on you taking advantage of the convenience of an active link. Be cautious when clicking on embedded links in e-mails and on web sties, and do not open attachments.

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