Under Massachusetts law, identity theft occurs when a person uses (or obtains in order to use) a victim’s personal identifying information to fraudulently obtain money, credit, goods, services, identification cards, or anything of value, or to harass the victim, with the intent to defraud. Identity thieves sometimes pose as victims in order to get credit, open bank accounts, or get other identifications. Other times, identity thieves are arrested and pose as the victim when in custody or being processed by the courts. If you think this may have happened to you, here are some steps you should take to start on the road to recovering your good name.
1. Document everything, including the amount of time you spend recovering your credit. Report credit cards, licenses, and all other personal documents or identification stolen or lost to the issuing company and the police immediately upon discovery.
2. Call your local police department and the police department in the city or state where your identity is being used. File a report with the respective police department and ask that they send you a copy of the report. You may need this report to file with creditors later. On rare occasions, identity thieves will use victim’s names when accused of a crime, or courts will issue warrants for your arrest although you committed no crime, because your name is listed as a person who opened bank accounts or lines of credit. Ask the police department to check for warrants in your name so you can resolve any open court cases.
3. Order copies of your credit report from all three reporting agencies listed below. When you receive the report scrutinize the information, including the lines of credit and different personal information detailed about you. Visit the credit reporting agency web sites or follow the instruction on the credit report to challenge any mistaken information on the credit report. You may also consider putting a fraud alert on your accounts. If you discover that there are lines of credit on your report that you did not open, report it to the credit reporting agency and the company extending the line of credit. The contact information for each of the major credit reporting agencies is as follows:
P.O. Box 105873
Atlanta, GA 30348-5873
Experian Information Systems
P.O. Box 949
Allen, TX 75013-0949
P.O. Box 390
Springfield, PA 19064-0390
4. Call the Registry of Motor Vehicles to be sure that no other identification has been issued in your name. If there has been, file a report with the Registry of Motor Vehicles and get a new license with a new license number.
5. Contact your bank to be sure that there has been no suspicious activity on your account. If necessary, create new accounts with new account numbers and passwords.
6. Contact the National Check Protection Service Consumer Line to report that you have been the victim of identity theft and to see if any bank accounts have been opened in your name recently. The National Check Protection Service collects information on bank customers on the behalf of member banks. The National Check Protection Service can be reached at 1-800-838-1980.
7. Contact your local Post Office to be sure that you are receiving your mail.
8. If you need a new Social Security card or want to consider a new Social Security Number, you can learn more about the process on the website for the Social Security Administration.
9. For further information on dealing with creditors or the credit bureaus, or if you would like more information about identity theft, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s ID Theft website.
To access the FTC’s online complaint form, click here.