Despite the efforts of law enforcement, Identity theft is becoming more sophisticated and the number of new victims is growing. In general, consumers are protected against liability for unauthorized accounts or transactions under federal and state law and by financial industry practices. However, innocent victims of Identity theft sometimes do suffer losses. And if the crime is not detected early, people may face months or years cleaning up the damage to their reputation and credit rating, and sometimes they lose out on loans, jobs and other opportunities in the meantime. The evolution of Identity theft includes the spread of fraudulent "phishing" e-mails. These are unsolicited e-mails purportedly from a legitimate source - perhaps your bank, utility company, well-known merchants, your Internet service provider or even a trusted government agency such as the FDIC or NACHA, attempting to trick you into divulging personal information.
Identity Theft can affect consumers in many ways, but there are also many ways to keep your identity from being "hijacked," and to assist you if you have been a victim of it:
- Protect your Social Security number (SSN), credit card and debit card numbers, PINs (personal identification numbers), passwords and other personal information.
- Protect your incoming and outgoing mail.
- Keep your financial trash "clean."
- Keep a close watch on your bank account statements and credit card bills.
- Avoid identity theft on the Internet.
- Exercise your new rights under FACTA to review your credit record and report fraudulent activity.
What to do if you have been a victim of Identify Theft:
- Set up a folder to keep a detailed history. Include a log of every action you take, copies of all correspondence and/or forms you receive or send, names and contact information of everyone you contact, as well as all information surrounding the contact.
- Keep track of the financial loss to you.
- Report the identity theft to the authorities.
- Contact all creditors. Do this by phone and in writing (save copies of the letters) to be sure they are properly informed.
- Contact the three major credit reporting agencies. Ask for a "Fraud Alert Victim Impact" statement to be placed in your credit file asking that creditors call you before opening any new accounts. Request that a copy of your credit report be sent to you.
- Contact the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC is the national clearing house for complaints by victims of identity theft. http://www.ftc.gov/
- Ask businesses to provide you with information about transactions made in your name. The Washington State Identity Theft Law requires businesses to provide information about transactions made in your name.