Fraud and Identity Theft

Fraud costs consumers millions of dollars per year in losses with it affecting consumer savings accounts, retirements, credit lines and the ability to secure a mortgage.

The increase in online transactions has made it easier to commit fraud than ever before.  While companies involved in information technology have implemented more stringent security, fraud prevention is an ongoing problem requiring awareness of both consumers and businesses.

It is important to protect yourself against fraud and identity theft and know what to do if you become a victim, as well as understanding the types of fraud and identity theft that could potentially impact your credit report and scores.

  • Identity Theft. Identity thieves gain access to personal information to open new accounts, make purchases, or get a tax refund.  Many are unaware of the theft until they apply for a new credit card or apply for loan.
  • Social Security Fraud. This happens when someone gains access to a Social Security number and uses it, along with other personal information, to commit fraud or identity theft.  Social Security numbers of deceased or retired persons via their Social Security checks, along with an address, can allow someone to apply for credit reports that often contain enough additional information for a thief to take the next step.
  • Interception of credit card numbers from online transactions or databases. When consumers make purchases over the internet, credit card information is typically encrypted.  However, theft of database information and hacking can expose your data, giving the offender enough to have illegal cards created or to use your information for online transactions.
  • Offenders will duplicate a website and send emails requesting sensitive or security information.  The information is then used to steal the consumer’s identity, access banking accounts, or apply for loans or lines of credit.

Additional Resources For Fraud & Identity Theft

Equifax’s resource center for fraud and identity theft.
Experian’s resource center for fraud and identity theft.
TransUnion’s resource center for fraud and identity theft.

The Department of Justice’s (DOJ) links on identity theft, identity fraud, preventing fraud, what to do in the event of identity theft and more.

Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
Information and a toll-free number to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) call if you have been subject to identity theft.

FTC What to do & Whom to Contact in the event of identity theft and best methods for recovering.

Social Security Administration information regarding Social Security fraud, how to prevent it and what to do if you’re a victim.

Depart of Justice notice warning consumers about the different methods of fraud and identity theft, both off and online.

How To Prevent Fraud

Credit card fraud is becoming more and more common. Fraud is the unauthorized, illegal use of your credit. Credit card fraud is identity theft.

  • Destroy private records and statements
  • Secure your mail
  • Safeguard your Social Security Number
  • Don’t leave a paper trail
  • Never let your credit card out of your sight
  • Take your name off marketers’ lists.
    • In additional to the national “Do-No-Call registry 1-888-832-1222, you can also cut down on junk mail and opt out of credit card solicitations by calling 1-888-5-OPT OUT.
  • Review credit card statements carefully
  • Guard your information
  • Know your delivery dates
  • Beware of unencrypted websites
  • Watch your ATM card

What If It Happens To You

If you think you have become a victim of identity theft or fraud, act immediately to minimize the damage to your funds, financial accounts and credit report.
Contact the federal trade commission to report the situation:

Online:  www.ftc.gov
By telephone:  8577-ID-THEFT (877-438-4338 or
By mail to Consumer Response Center, FTC, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20580.

Call the fraud units of the three national credit bureaus:

Equifax:

  • To Report fraud, call 800-525-6285 or write to P.O. Box 740250, Atlanta, GA. 39374-0250.
  • To order a copy of your credit report go to www.equifax.com or call 800-685-5000 or 800-685-1111.
  • To dispute information in your report, call the phone number provided on your credit report.
  • To opt out of pre-approved offers of credit, call 888-567-8688 or write to Equifax Options, P.O. Box 740123, Atlanta, GA 303-74-0123.

Experian:

  • To report fraud, call 888-EXPERIAN or 888-397-3742, fax to 800-301-7196, or write to P.O. Box 1017, Allen, TX 75013.
  • To order a copy of your report, go to www.experian.com or call 888-EXPERIAN.
  • To dispute information in your report, call the phone number provided on your credit report.
  • To opt out of pre-approved offers of credit and marketing lists, call 800-353-0809 or 888-5OPTOUT or write to P.O. Box 919, Allen, TX 75013.

TransUnion:

  • To report fraud, call 800-680-7289 or write to P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA. 92634.
  • To order a copy of your credit report, go to www.transunion.com or call 800-888-4213.
  • To dispute information in your report, call the phone number provided on your credit report.
  • To opt our of pre-approved offers of credit and marketing lists, call 800-680-7293 or 888-5OPTOUT or write to P.O. Box 97328, Jackson, MS. 39238.

Contact all creditors with whom your name or identifying data have been fraudulently used. For example, you may need to contact your long distance telephone company if your long-distance calling card has been stolen or you find fraudulent charges on your bill.

Contact all financial institutions where you have accounts that an identity thief has taken over or that have been created in your name but without your knowledge. You may need to cancel those accounts, place stop payment orders on any outstanding checks that may not have cleared, and change your Automated Teller Machine (ATM) card, account and Personal Identification Number (PIN).

Contact the major check verification companies (listed in the CalPIRG-Privacy Rights Clearinghouse checklist) if you have had checks stolen or bank accounts set up by an identity thief.