Identity theft occurs when someone knowingly transfers or uses, without lawful authority, a means of identification of another person with the intent to commit or to aid or abet any unlawful activity that constitutes a violation of federal law or that constitutes a felony under any applicable state or local law.
Identity theft is the fastest growing fraud scheme in the United States. It has been estimated that nearly 27 million Americans have been victimized over the recent five year period. Ten million Americans discovered they were victims of some form of ID theft within a recent 12 month period, including the misuse of credit card or other accounts. Nearly seven million Americans discovered their credit card or other account information had been misused during the recent 12 month period. Over three million Americans discovered their personal information had been misused over a recent 12 month period for more serious "new account fraud"-to open new accounts, take out loans, misuse the victim's name and identifying information when someone is charged with a crime, renting an apartment or obtaining medical care.
On the average, victims reported spending about $500 to deal with their identity theft experience. Victims of the more serious "new accounts and other frauds" form of identity theft spend almost $1,200 on average. Identity theft of all types cost victims an estimated $5 billion during a recent 12-month period.
Victims of identity theft spent an estimated 297 million hours recovering from identity theft last year. About 194 million hours from "new accounts and other fraud," while roughly 100 million hours were spent dealing with the misuse of existing accounts.
Here are a couple of ways to protect your identity:
- Shred all junk mail, credit card applications etc. that have your name, SSN, address, date of birth or other pertinent personal information BEFORE you throw it in the trash.
- When paying bills via U.S. Mail, deposit the bill into a LOCKED mailbox. Do not put it in your mailbox if it is not secured. ID thieves will cruise neighborhoods looking for the "red flag" on mailboxes, take your bills, and alter your personal checks or use the checks to get your account number and order additional checks.
- If your monthly or quarterly bank and/or credit card statements fail to arrive, contact your financial institution and/or credit card company immediately.
- If your financial institution or credit card company offers online viewing of your outstanding checks and charges, monitor your account on a daily or every other day basis. You should be looking for checks that you did not write or charges that you did not authorize.
- Sign your credit cards. If you don't someone else will.
- Do not carry your Social Security card in your purse or wallet. In addition, look at other items you carry to determine if they have your SSN on them. If your driver's license is your SSN, change it. Remember, ID thieves only need your SSN, name and address to steal your ID.
- Finally, if you ever suspect that you may have been a victim of ID theft, follow the instructions below immediately. Waiting two or three days can cause problems down the road.
Due to the rising number of occurrences of identity theft, the Credit Union National Association adopted a program (required under the FACTA which became law last year) issuing one free credit report each year to consumers. This program is designed to encourage consumers to regularly check their credit report to ensure that the information contained in the report is accurate and also provides an opportunity to the consumer to look for possible signs of identity theft.
The website to request your free credit report is Annual Credit Report.
If you believe you are a victim of identity theft, please follow the steps outlined below:
- Contact the fraud department at any one of the three major credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit file.
- Close the accounts that you know or believe have been compromised or opened fraudulently.
- File a police report. Obtain a copy of the police report to submit to your creditors and others that may require proof of the crime.
- File your complaint with the FTC. The FTC maintains a database of identity theft cases used by law enforcement agencies for investigations.
Filing a complaint also helps the government to learn more about identity theft and the problems victims are having so that they can better assist you. Visit the FTC website for more information.
If you have questions throughout the process or are unsure of what to do, please feel free to contact the fraud prevention department at CommunityAmerica Credit union at 913.905.6677 by leaving a message. Someone from the loss prevention department will contact you by close of the following business day to discuss your concerns and/or answer any questions.