National non-profit offers consumers insight into what steps they need to take if their identity has been stolen.
Boston, MA – May 21, 2013
Identity theft is a major culprit in an ever increasing digital world; despite the growing threat many consumers do not know how to handle it, or even what identity theft is. According to the Federal Trade Commission identity theft occurs when someone steals your personal information and uses it without your permission. According to a recent study conducted by Javelin Strategy and Research, in 2012 there were 12.6 million victims of identity fraud in the US, which equates to one victim every three seconds.
“Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in America,” says Steve Trumble, president and CEO of Newton-based American Consumer Credit Counseling. “The best piece of advice for any consumer to ensure that they do not fall victim is to review your credit score. This will help identify any misuse of credit cards and can also lead to identifying lines of credit that were opened under your name.”
American Consumer Credit Counseling has identified five steps that consumers should take if they have fallen victim to identity theft:
- Contact the police – without a police report a consumer will not be able to dispute charges and credit card companies will not take the charges seriously. Additionally, other resources and organizations such as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will also not be able to help unless this has been filed. Remember identity theft is a crime.
- Obtain a copy of your credit report – Review your credit report immediately, change your account numbers and get rid of accounts that are not yours. The only way to identify the scope of the identity theft is to get a copy of your credit report from the three credit reporting agencies; TransUnion, Equifax and Experian and identify which accounts were falsely opened.
- Obtain a copy of all of your bank and credit card statements – Immediately contact your bank and/or credit card companies if you identify any charges that you are not familiar with – the longer the theft is out there the harder it is to prove it was not you. All banks and credit card companies have a time restraint on the length that the fraudulent charge can remain on your statement.
- For credit card companies– after first statement you have 60 days to dispute.
- By federal law a consumer needs to notify the bank of fraudulent charges within 48 hours to avoid a fee, otherwise the consumer can incur a $50 charge.
- File a report with the Federal Trade Commission – The FTC has a database that they maintain and can typically track complaints through local authorities. In most cases it is a group of attackers that are committing the crime and authorities will have a better chance of catching the offender by utilizing the FTC database.
- If necessary hire a lawyer – Depending on how bad the situation is, it might be necessary to hire a lawyer. Credit card companies are more likely to respond to a lawyer than they are to a consumer. Though there may be a fee associated with this, it is ultimately worth the investment, especially since it could take years to get your identity back.
“As more and more consumers turn to the web for their online banking and purchases, the opportunity for identity theft increases exponentially,” said Trumble. “The key to overcoming identity theft is knowing how to respond and we hope that these steps arm consumers with the power and knowledge to ensure their identity is kept safe.”
ACCC is a 501(c)3 organization, that provides free credit counseling, bankruptcy counseling, and housing counseling to consumers nationwide in need of financial literacy education and money management. For more information, contact ACCC:
- For credit counseling, call 800-769-3571
- For bankruptcy counseling. call 866-826-6924
- For housing counseling, call 866-826-7180
- For more information on financial education workshops in New England, call 800-769-3571 x1980
- Or visit us online at ConsumerCredit.com