By: Financial Hotline
Spring 2021 (Vol. 39, No. 1)
Q: My identity was stolen. What are my first steps?
A: Step 1: Call the institutions or companies where you believe fraud has occurred.
Step 2: Contact Experian, Equifax or Transunion to place a fraud alert on your credit. You only have to contact one and they will notify the other two. This fraud alert will make it harder for someone to open new credit in your name. As a theft victim, you can also request a free credit report.
- Equifax.com or 800-685-1111
- Experian.com or 888-397-3792
- Transunion.com or 888-909-8872
Also, even if you don’t suspect fraud, you can freeze your credit as a precautionary measure. A freeze will last until you remove it and restricts access to your credit report for opening new lines of credit. You can temporarily lift the freeze if you need to apply for credit.
Step 3: Report identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) online at www.Identytheft.gov or by phone at 1-877-438-4338. Print out or save a copy of your theft report to help get false information taken off your credit reports, stop debt collectors and file a police report.
IdentityTheft.gov is the federal government’s one-stop resource for identity theft victims. You will need to create an account and provide details on what’s happening. The site will provide streamlined checklists and prefilled forms and letters to walk you through each step of the recovery process. You can also update your plan as needed and track your progress. Go to ftc.gov/idtheft for prevention tips and free resources to share in your community.
Step 4: Check bank statements, credit card accounts, all financial accounts carefully for unauthorized charges or changes.
Step 5: Change passwords on online accounts and social media.
Step 6: You may choose to file a report with your local police department. Only a small fraction of these cases are prosecuted but having a police report is one more document to help you substantiate your claim of fraud to debt collectors and current and future creditors.
Q: I am getting way too many unsolicited offers in the mail and telemarketing calls to my cell phone. What can I do?
A: If you are being bombarded with verbal and written sales calls, there’s not a one step fix but completing these steps will help slow the deluge:
Each time you identify an unwanted call use the block feature to stop that number from calling again. If your phone doesn’t have that option, go to CTIA.org for a list of apps that will block unwanted calls.
Register with the Do Not Call Registry. It is free and was created to stop unwanted calls from real companies. You can register your landline and cell phone numbers at www. donotcall.gov
For a processing fee of $2, Direct Marketing Association’s consumer website www.DMAchoice.org allows you to register to limit unsolicited marketing pieces. You can also request an email preference service to limit email solicitation.
The major consumer credit companies operate a service that lets you limit “pre-screened’ offers of credit and insurance. Call 888-567-8688 or visit www.optoutprescreen. com to register.
If you answer the phone and hear a recorded message instead of a live person, it’s a robocall. The Federal Trade Commission considers most robocalls illegal unless you have given the company specific permission to contact you by phone. The few exceptions of legal robocalls include:
- Informational calls such as emergency or disaster info, appointment reminders, etc…
- Debt collection and payment reminders
- Political calls
If you get an unsolicited robocall or believe you are receiving fraudulent or scam offers, texts or calls, you can report them to the Federal Consumer Commission at www. consumercomplaint.fcc.gov or call 888-225-5322.