Consumer and Preventative Law -- Identity Theft on the Rise: What to Do If You Become a Victim?
March 19, 2012
With tax season upon us, there always is a possibility of becoming a victim of identity theft. A person can file their taxes with a reputable tax firm or even file their taxes themselves and be informed by the Internal Revenue Service or a State Revenue Service that a thief has filed a tax return using their Social Security Number. While the reasons for this may be numerous, a taxpayer can often be personally blameless and be a victim of identity theft due to: garbage picking, computer hacking, computer phishing and other IT attacks. The question is what to do next?
The short answer is you will embark on a long and difficult quest. After helping several clients start the process, I've found there is an initial seven step process.
First, contact the Federal Trade Commission, the lead federal agency to file a complaint. Start at the Federal Trade Commission general site: www.ftc.gov. Within two clicks you will be at the site to file a report on identity theft.
Second, file a report with your local police department. The FTC site has a report that you can follow and file within its complaint.
Third, you should contact the Social Security Administration, to inform them of the problem by calling: 1-800-772-1213 or by visiting the local Social Security Office to dispute any wages earned or claimed to have been earned by an impostor.
Fourth, you need to contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit to insure that they are aware of your problem. See www.irs.gov/identitytheft. Follow up with all procedures suggested here.
Fifth, contact at least one of the three major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian, or Trans Union, or preferably all three, so a fraud alert can be placed. A fraud alert is a message that is placed on a credit report to help protect a consumer's credit information. Fraud alert messages notify potential credit guarantors to verify the consumer's identification before extending credit in his/her name. A standard fraud alert lasts 90 days. However, if a consumer can prove that he/she has become a victim of identity theft, the alert can be placed on their report for seven years.
Sixth, you can call and update your file with a Federal Trade Commission counselor after you file your initial complaint at 1-877-438-4338. Keep your initial record complaint number so that you can update your case.
Seventh, you need to keep records on all of the above steps with updates. If it sounds like lots of work, it is, but to keep your own life in order; it is what has to be done.
If you have any further questions on identity theft or other consumer law issues, do not hesitate to call to schedule an appointment for legal assistance on this or other matters at the RIA Staff Judge Advocates Office (309) 782-0665. The FTC's Identity Theft Affidavit is also available at Army Community Service (309) 782-0829/3340.