By Andrew Lucht
Army Community Service Consumer Affairs
This is the third in a three part series on avoiding identity theft. There are the three ways to avoid identity theft; deter, detect and defend. This article will discuss ways to defend against identity theft as soon as you suspect it.
If you suspect you are a victim of identity theft place a “fraud alert” on your credit reports, and review the reports carefully. The alert tells creditors to follow certain procedures before they open new accounts in your name or make changes to your existing accounts. The three nationwide consumer reporting companies have toll free numbers for placing an initial 90-day fraud alert; a call to one company is sufficient. Equifax call 1-800-525-6285. Experian call 1-888-397-3742. TransUnion call 1-800-680-7289. Placing a fraud alert entitles you free copies of your credit reports. Look for inquiries from companies you haven’t contacted, accounts you didn’t open, and debts on your accounts that you can’t explain.
Close accounts that have been tampered with or established fraudulently. Call the security or fraud departments of each company where an account was opened or changed without your okay. Follow up in writing, with copies of supporting documents. Use the ID Theft Affidavit at ftc.gov/idtheft to support your written statement. Ask for verification that the disputed account has been closed and the fraudulent debts discharged. Keep copies of documents and records of your conversations about the theft.
Explain the situation to your commanding officer. You don’t want your C.O. taken by surprise if contacted by creditors looking to collect on charges made by the identity thief. You also may want a referral to a legal assistance office.
File a police report. File a report with military law enforcement and the local police (if you are in the United States). Their reports will help you with creditors who may want proof of the crime.
Report the theft to the Federal Trade Commission. Your report helps law enforcement officials across the United States in their investigation. Online go to ftc.gov/idtheft, by phone 1-877-438-4338 or by mail to Identity Theft Clearinghouse, Federal Trade Commission, Washington, DC 20580.
To learn more about ID theft and how to deter, detect and defend against it, visit ftc.gov/idtheft.
For more information or assistance please contact Andrew Lucht, Accredited Financial Counselor at 678-1337.