Coach Mom Newsletter - FEB 2011
Recently my husband and I, when applying
for a car loan through our local bank, were
shocked to see a full list of unpaid bills
on our credit report. Every home loan we had
ever applied for we were told they had never
seen such stellar credit. But not this time
-- we had no idea where all the charges had
come from. We realized we had been the
victims of identity theft. Someone had
assumed his identity by attaching his name
with Chris’ Social Security number (which is
how credit reports are identified). Because
I don’t want you to suffer the same
scenario, I am dedicating this month’s
newsletter to discussing ways to combat
identity theft and also help you know what
to do if you suspect you may be a victim of
identity theft already.
Identity Theft Defined
Identity theft is when someone
establishes a parallel identity by using
someone else’s personal information without
their knowledge. This might be for the
purpose of obtaining new credit cards,
applying for loans, renting an apartment, or
even covering up crimes such as traffic
infractions or felonies.
Identity Theft Explained
With as little information as a Social
Security number, birth date, address and
phone number and a false driver’s license
with the imposter’s own picture, one can
begin the crime. Negligent credit grantors
receiving credit applications with “new
address” claims rush to issue credit without
confirming information or the address. That
account added to the other information adds
credibility when the person then goes to
apply for a loan at a bank, for example. The
victim’s credit is destroyed when the
imposter fails to pay the bills.
Identity Theft Prevented
Listed below are some suggestions given
by Crown.org to try and prevent your
personal information getting in the hands of
an identity theft:
✦ Shred all important papers and
correspondence with your name and/or address
on them - especially preapproved credit
applications received in your name. Don’t
forget to shred your credit card receipts.
Never toss them in a public trash container.
✦ Be careful of “dumpster divers.” Be sure
that you do not throw away anything that
someone could use to assume your identity.
✦ Be careful using ATMs and phone cards.
“Shoulder surfers” can see your pin number
and get access to your accounts.
✦ Do not
put checks in the mail at your home mailbox.
Mail theft is common. It’s easy to change
the name of the recipient on the check with
an acid wash.
✦ If you possibly can, get
a post office box or a locked mailbox.
Don’t give personal information on the
phone, through the mail, or over the
Internet unless you have initiated the
contact or know with whom you're dealing.
Identity thieves may pose as representatives
of banks, Internet service providers, and
even government agencies to get you to
reveal your Social Security number, mother's
maiden name, financial account numbers, and
other identifying information. Legitimate
organizations have the information they need
and will not ask for it.
✦ When you are
asked for identification by schools,
employers, or any other kind of institution,
ask to use an alternative to your Social
Security number. Unfortunately, your health
insurance carrier often uses your Social
Security number as your identification
number. Try to change that if you can.
Cancel all credit cards that you do not use
or have not used in six months. Thieves use
these very easily; open credit is a prime
✦ Put passwords on all accounts
and do not use your mother’s maiden name.
Make up a fictitious word.
Social Security numbers and passwords. Do
not carry your Social Security card with you
or use your Social Security number as your
driver’s license number.
✦ Don’t carry a
checkbook. Pay by cash or credit card.
Don’t put your Social Security number on
checks or credit receipts.
✦ Don’t put
phone numbers on checks.
✦ Don’t put your
credit card number on the Internet unless it
is encrypted on a secured site.
all bank statements for every credit card
✦ Order a credit report at
least yearly and review it carefully. If you
see anything that appears fraudulent,
immediately put a fraud alert on your
reports by calling the numbers listed under
the resources section below.
Immediately correct all mistakes on your
credit reports in writing. Send those
letters Return Receipt Requested, and
identify the problems item by item, with a
copy of the credit report going back to the
credit reporting agency. You should hear
from them within 30 days.
✦ Make a list
of all your credit card account numbers and
bank account numbers and keep them in a safe
place. (Do not keep it on the hard drive of
your computer if you are connected to the
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Last week my husband and I were turned
down for a home loan. We were amazed to see
a long list of unpaid bills that we knew
nothing about. Now I’m wondering if my trash
can was a thief’s pot of gold. I had always
heard you should shred the credit card
applications that come in the mail, but
honestly, I have been so worn out from
changing diapers and cleaning house that I
couldn’t imagine adding one more thing to my
to-do list. Since I get those applications
in the mail every day I’m guessing that was
what opened the door for identity theft.
What can I do now?
Crying over my Credit Report
Dear Crying over my Credit Report,
Unfortunately identity theft is an
ever-increasing problem, now ranking as the
number one non-violent crime in the U.S.
Immediately notify your financial
institutions if you haven’t already.
Although you probably won’t be liable for
more than $50 of the imposter’s bill (15 USC
1643), you are the one who will have to work
months or even years to straighten out the
credit mess the imposter has made. Report
the theft to the Federal Trade Commission at
1-877-ID-THEFT. Or, visit the FTC consumer
website, www.consumer.gov/idtheft. To stop
the thief’s further use of your identity, do
According to Crown.org, these are actions
a victim of identity theft can take:
✦ Immediately call all credit card
issuers and get replacement cards with new
✦ File a police report
and keep a copy with you at all times. Even
if the police can't catch the identity thief
in your case, having a copy of the police
report can help you when dealing with
✦ Call the fraud units of the
three credit reporting companies: Experian
(888-397-3742), Equifax (800-525-6285), and
Trans Union (800-680-7289). Ask for your
account to be flagged, and add a victim’s
statement to the report. You also can
contact the National Fraud Information
Center (800-876-7060) for step-by-step
instructions on how to proceed.
your bank of the theft. Get a new ATM card
with a new account number and password.
Contact the Social Security Administration
✦ Report fraudulent
checks to Telecheck 1-800-710-9898, Check
Rite 1-800-766-2748, National Processing Co.
1-800-526-5380, or Equifax 1-800-437-5120.
✦ Create a paper trail of all correspondence
and phone calls you make as you attempt to
restore your name and financial identity.
Keep copies of all documentation.
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To order your report, call 800-685-1111 or
write to PO Box 740241, Atlanta GA
To report fraud, call
800-525-6285 or write to PO Box 740241,
Atlanta GA 30374-0241.
order your report, call 888-EXPERIAN
(397-3742) or write to PO Box 949, Allen TX
To report fraud, call
888-EXPERIAN (397-3742) or write to PO Box
949, Allen TX 75013-0949.
your report, call 800-916-8800 or write to
PO Box 1000, Chester PA 19022.
fraud, call 800-680-7289 or write to Fraud
Victim Assistance Division, PO Box 6790,
Fullerton CA 92634.
Trade Commission (FTC)
works for the consumer to prevent
fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business
practices in the marketplace and to provide
information to help consumers spot, stop,
and avoid them. To file a complaint or to
get free information on any of 150 consumer
topics, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP
(1-877-382-4357) or use the online complaint
form at their website.
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