Friday, April 25, 2014

Identity Theft: What to do if you become a victim?

Anyone can become a victim of identity theft in today's day and age, no one is completely protected. You may say to yourself, "that won't happen to me, I'm too careful". What if it does happen to you? What steps should you take?

If you become an unfortunate victim of Identity Theft, you must act quickly to limit the damage and stop the identity thief immediately. In Pennsylvania, the crime of identity theft of another person occurs someone possesses or uses, through any means, identifying information of another person without the consent of that other person to further any unlawful purpose. Under the law, a police report taken by a local, county, or state law enforcement agency by a person stating that their identifying information had been used without their consent shall be considered evidence that the information was used or possessed without the person's consent.

The following steps should be taken if you become a victim:

• Notify the three major credit bureaus and ask them to put a fraud alert on your credit reports.

• Contact the fraud department of all of your creditors, including any institutions that issue you bank cards, debit cards, credit cards and/or checking/saving accounts. You should mail a copy of a completed Federal Trade Commission's Identity Theft affidavit to all of your creditors, a copy of which can be obtained online, or complete the creditors’ fraud dispute form.

• If you think your bank account has been tampered with, you should immediately contact your financial institution so they can freeze your account(s).

• Contact your local police department so an investigation into the crime can begin immediately.

• Complaints can also be made to the Office of the Attorney General, The Federal Trade Commission, Department of Motor Vehicles, US Postal Inspection Service, or the Social Security Administration, depending on the type of identity theft involved.

If you act as soon as you are notified or become aware that you have been a victim of identity theft by notifying the police, creditors, credit bureaus, and/or any of the other institutions discussed above, hopefully the theft is stopped and the damage will be minimized. Once you have made the proper report, make sure to keep track of your credit and accounts to insure that the identity theft has ended for good.

--- Jeremy J. Davis, Esquire

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