Identity Theft

Identity theft is increasing at an alarming rate. Several surveys suggest that one in twelve individuals will be the victim of identity theft. Often the victim will not know they have been scammed until they receive their bank or credit card statement or attempt to withdraw funds and find their account seriously overdrawn. Often companies or banks will notify a victim that their credit / debit cards are being used to purchase items in different states. This is extremely upsetting to the victim when they receive a call at home or while at work.

When this situation arises, many victims are confused and frightened and do not know what to do. This checklist will assist you should the need arise:

What can I do to prevent this from happening?

There are no absolute preventative measures that you can take to prevent this cr ime from happening.

What information will I need to be readily accessible in the event that my ID or bank accounts are being used fraudulently?

Each credit or debit card should be copied (front and back) and kept in a secure location and readily accessible should it be needed. The front of card will contain your account number and the back of the card will contain information concerning lost or stolen cards. These copies are extremely valuable when the actual card has been stolen. When the card is stolen or lost, all the contact information the card contains will not be available. Passwords should NOT be stored with this information. Many banks offer literature concerning ID theft that will be of great benefit to their customers. If this information is available, obtain a copy and place it along with your credit card photocopies.

What do I do in the event that I am notified that my ID or cards are being used without my permission?

The best rule to follow is to get the all the information you can and DO NOT GIVE or verify information if asked. Criminals often use this approach to obtain information. Callers that ask for answers to personal questions, such as social security numbers, date of birth or your mother’s maiden name should alert the victim that  this may not be a valid inquiry concerning a questionable transaction.

A reputable company will only attempt to alert you that the card is being used and will want to know if the purchase is valid or not. They will often ask the last four digits of the card being used. No more information should be needed by the company alerting you of the attempted theft.

You should get the caller’s name, company, phone numbers given (also log the number on your caller ID if available) and the location where the card is being used. Any name used in connection with the transaction will also be useful. This will start a phone log that you can add to. Document all calls that you make or receive concerning this incident. Names, direct phone numbers or extensions of those you speak with assist you should problems arise later. If you do not have names and direct numbers, you will find that you will have to repeat your story multiple times to resolve your problem. This strategy alone will save you countless hours of being transferred or being placed on hold while your case is being reviewed by those unfamiliar with your problem.

Immediately after the call informing you of the unauthorized use or your cards, notify the issuing bank or credit card company of the event. Do not be alarmed if you reach an automated response that will not allow you to alert them that you card is stolen. Some companies will inform you that you must call them during regular business hours and that you will not be responsible for any unauthorized charges.

After notifying the above concerning the unauthorized use, notify the local police department immediately. Report the theft or unauthorized use and obtain a police report number. In many cases, this report number will be required before any unauthorized charges can be removed from your account. This will also give proof of time and date of your notification to police.

As soon as possible, the victim should notify the credit reporting agencies to report fraudulent use of their accounts. This will also help you should the need arise. It is much easier to alert them before the fraudulent charges show up as unpaid debts than to try and convince them later that the charges are not valid debts.

Many banks offer literature concerning ID theft that will be of great benefit to their customers. If this information is available, obtain a copy and place it along with your credit card photocopies.

If I am not responsible for the unauthorized charges, why should I go to all this trouble?

You are not responsible for the unauthorized charges IF you follow all the guidelines set forth by the bank or credit card company. Time limits are also imposed by those respective companies concerning how much time you have to report unauthorized use. If you do not meet this deadline, you will be held responsible for those charges. If an actual theft occurs, companies may send you an affidavit of theft statement to complete. These statements must be completed and returned to the requesting company. If these requested forms are not received by the company, you will be held responsible for the charges placed. All correspondence in regards to an ID theft or unauthorized use of your cards should be sent by US mail with return receipt requested. This will ensure the requested documents were sent and received.

A valuable resource explaining many questions can found at the Federal Trade Commission web site. This site can be viewed by clicking on this link: www.ftc.gov

If you are a resident of Belle Meade, contact the Belle Meade Police for assistance immediately. We will assist you in developing a plan of action.