Credit Record Identity Fraud Recovery  

Release Of Liability

This page gives advice, which, if taken, will probably make it more difficult for you to obtain credit in the future.

By reading the information on this Internet site you acknowledge that you assume all liability for damages you might sustain as a result of your actions, including but not limited to difficulty in obtaining credit and credit-based services.

To continue, scroll down or click here.

Otherwise, click here


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Purpose

This information is only intended for those in the United States, and any relevance to other countries is purely accidental.

The main purpose of this page is to give information that is useful for recovering from certain types of fraud involving the use of your identity (Social Security number and other information) by others to illegally obtain goods and services through a credit application. It is primarily aimed at protecting yourself from further fraud attempts, and also describes some ways you can help the police catch the criminals involved.

This page may also be useful for things like getting a copy of your credit record, reducing the number of unsolicited credit offers you get in the mail, and other things related to your credit record.

This page does not address "cleaning up" or "restoring" your credit record, as you might wish to do after failing to pay debts. All of the procedures described here will either have no effect on your credit record, or they will make it more difficult for you to obtain credit in the future.

Some Definitions

For clarity, this page refers to different types of fraud by the following names:

credit card fraud - the use of credit card numbers to fraudulently purchase goods and services.

credit record fraud - the use of personal information (usually including a Social Security number) to fraudulently apply for credit or credit-backed goods and services.

identity fraud - the use of personal information and (usually) stolen or forged identification documents to establish a new or stolen identity or to acquire new identification documents. If the attacker commits crimes that leave no evidence allowing distinction, the authorities (police, FBI, INS, etc.) cannot distinguish the victim from their attacker.

How This Page is Organized

There are lots of things you might need to do, and the order they need to be done in will vary greatly from one case to another. Therefore, it doesn't make sense to make a list that you run through from top to bottom. Instead, the page is broken up into several To-Do items. Each To-Do item will give a situation, followed by a description of what to do in that situation. You're supposed to read the titles and use the parts that are useful to you. After doing some of them you'll find that others become possible.

To-Do: If You Don't Want To Get Credit or Loan Offers in the Mail

Contact one credit bureau at their "request opt-out" number (contact numbers given below). You can choose to stop unsolicited offers for two years or permanently.

Once you give notice to one credit bureau, they will notify the others. There is no need for you to call all three.

There is also a centralized number for requesting "opt-out": 888-567-8688 (888-5OPTOUT)

To-Do: If You Get a Call From a Bank Verifying a Credit Application That You've Never Heard Of

As usual, whenever you receive a call don't give any information to the caller. It's only okay to give information if you placed the call and you got the phone number from a reliable source.

You've probably gotten this call because the bank or other company has received an application that contains some information that is correct and some that is incorrect, or because they suspect some of the information may be incorrect. (Example: your name and Social Security number and someone else's address). Banks and other creditors call old phone numbers to check to see if there are two people using the same name.

Ask them to read through the application line by line (they might want a "yes" or "no" confirmation on each item). Do not correct them by giving them any of your correct information. (If they do not want to read the application to you, tell them it is fraud and you need to file a police report.) Write down any new information you hear, including:

After they have given you any information they are willing to give, tell them you did not make the credit application, and they should treat it as fraud.

You should also make sure you get the name and phone number of a representative you can use if you need to reach them again, and find out the name of the company and what city they're in.

The bank or creditor will reject the credit application. They will probably also mail you an affadavit form which you will need to fill out, sign and get notarized.

For each type of information you wrote down (phone numbers, address, credit cards, etc), there is another To-Do item telling what you can do with that information. If this is the first fraud incident you've heard of, you should check all of the To-Do items.

To-Do: If You Know Your ID Has Been Used Fraudulently

Contact each of the credit bureaus to get your credit record (contact numbers listed below). You can get a report by mail just by placing a phone call. However, since you are trying to stop fraud you should try to submit your request by FAX (this is what banks and other creditors do). Call the bureau's fraud victims number (listed below).

Read through your credit reports; they will show accepted and rejected credit applications. Some of these should be familiar to you because you initiated them. At least one will be the one you already know about. There may be others you hadn't heard of before. These have to be followed up on; see the To-Do on "if you know another form of credit they've gotten".

Contact each of the credit bureaus and ask to have a 7-year fraud alert warning, also called a security alert, placed on your credit record. The credit bureau will probably mail you a form which must be filled out and returned for the alert to be permenent (otherwise it will last only 3-6 months). Note: This alert is important because it prevents further damage to your credit record. However, it will also make it more difficult for you to get credit.

When speaking to the credit bureau fraud department you can also ask if any credit checks have been run by banks or other organizations that grant credit. This will help you catch other credit applications and stop them.

Make sure your current phone number is on each credit bureau's report. Banks need your phone number to notify you when they receive a credit application.

Begin trying to determine how your ID information was stolen. There are several other To-Do items on this page that will help with that. Depending on how the information was taken there are different things you might have to do.

To-Do: If You Know an Address Fraudulently Used With Your Name

First of all don't go there. If the address is near you, you should include it in a police report and ask the police to check it out for you.

For many types of credit record fraud the thief needs to give both an address and a phone number. Call Directory Assistance giving your name and the address to get the phone number. Then check the To-Do on phone numbers.

If the criminal is trying to steal your entire identity (rather than just use your credit record) they might be trying to get forms of ID such as a driver's license. They might even try to forward your mail — check with the Post Office to see if they have gotten a forwarding order, and tell them not to allow any forwarding orders for a few months.

To-Do: If You Know of Another Form of Credit or Service They've Gotten

Call the bank, loan office, or other relevant company and tell them you think a fraudulent application was submitted to them in your name. Ask to speak to their fraud department or their credit applications processing office. They might have to redirect your call a few times to get to the right department or office. Note that if it's a credit card you'll probably have to call the bank and not the credit company (example: First Miami Bank, not Visa) although it certainly doesn't hurt to call both.

Even if they do find an application, they still need to be sure it's you and not just another person with your name. You'll probably have to give your Social Security Number so they can make sure.

Once it's verified that this application was made with your identity, tell them you did not make the credit application, and they should treat it as fraud. They will reject the application or cancel the account. If possible, try to get them to read the application to you so you can find out what addresses and phone numbers were used and whether any of your other personal information has been stolen. They will probably also mail you an affadavit form which you will need to fill out, sign, and get notarized.

Tell them you want to file a police report and ask for any information that they have:

For each type of information you get, there is another To-Do item telling what you can do with that information.

To-Do: If You Learn About a Phone Number Fraudulently Registered in Your Name

You might want to tell call the phone company that serves the city where the phone number is located and tell them it was set up fraudulently, but before you do that there are several other things you might want to do first:

First, give the information to the police. They might not want you to call the phone company until they have had a chance to try to catch the thieves. Turning off the phone number will alert the thieves that someone is onto them.

There might be other phone numbers fraudulently registered in your name. You want to get these phone numbers. It is also useful to find out any other names that are connected with these phone numbers.

Repeat this process with all new names, phone numbers and cities you get. Continue until you run out of new leads and have followed up on all the names, numbers and cities.

All names, numbers, cities and addresses will be useful to the police. The fact that they are linked is especially useful. Copy them all onto a single sheet of paper, print neatly, and attach to a police report.

If you have other names, see if you can find a common link between them. Find out if any of these names are listed in your own local phone directory: if they are, the original theft of Social Security numbers occurred near where you live. Furthermore, it is likely the victims are linked by being associated with an organization that uses Social Security numbers in some way. Check your company's employee phone list. Check the directory at your apartment building (if any), (Social Security numbers are given in rental applications).

Give the list of names to your doctor's office or any other organization that keeps confidential records. They won't tell you if the names are in their records, but they might be willing to notify the people that their IDs are being used fraudulently.

If your Social Security number is also your driver's license number, check any businesses or organizations that use your driver's license on a form you filled out. This might include fitness clubs, video rental stores, any auto rental, hotels, etc. Most of these will not allow you to find out if the other names are in their files, but might be able to look at their list and do something about it if the names are indeed a match.

If you have local phone numbers or addresses for any of the names, you might wish to tell the people whose names you found — they are probably victims too and might not know it yet, and the police are probably too busy to tell them.

However, you need to verify that they are real (the local listing you found might be another fraud listing). To do this you need to look up the name in an old phone book (1 year old should be enough). If they were in the phone book a year ago, they're probably a real person.

If you do contact someone, remember they will be skeptical. Tell them you just found out you're a credit record fraud victim and that their names were listed on the same fake phone numbers, then suggest they follow up by calling the credit bureaus. Give them any information you think might be useful to them, but remember not to ask them for information since your call is unsolicited.

To-Do: After a Few Months

Get copies of your credit reports again and check for new fraudulent applications.

Verify that the fraud alert is on the report and looks good.

To-Do: If You Move

Since your fraud alert probably requires them to call you on the phone, you will need to make sure your new phone number gets on your credit report before you will be able to get any new credit.

To-Do: After a Few Years

Get copies of your credit reports again and check for new fraudulent applications.

Verify that the fraud alert is on the report and looks good. Make sure your current phone number is on the report, so that banks can notify you when they receive credit applications.

To-Do: If You Are Worried About Other Types of Identity Fraud

More serious forms of identity fraud are perpetrated by criminals interested in getting a clean police record. Dealing with these types of crimes is beyond the scope of this web page, but here is some information that will get you started:

Forms of Identity

If they want this They need to have this
Birth certificate parents and/or adoption agency and/or hospital where you were born
U.S. Citizenship (native) birth certificate
U.S. Citizenship (immigrant) entry visa and/or green card, written statement of employer and/or affadavit from embassy or consulate
Social Security number (for native) birth certificate, witness statements from relatives and/or first employer
Social Security number (for immigrant) U.S. citizenship, green card, witness statements from first employer
Passport birth certificate, Social Security card
New driver's license birth certificate, Social Security number, clear police record in desired state
Transfer driver's license old driver's license, Social Security number, clear police record in desired state, clear police record in old state
Transfer driver's license (foreign) old driver's license, Social Security number, clear police record in desired state, clear record with duty office, Secret Service, FBI, etc.

Organizations To Contact

State Registry of Motor Vehicles

State Police

United States Secret Service (check government listings, or Directory Assistance in your state's capitol city)

FBI (check government listings, or Directory Assistance in your state's capitol city)

Data: Credit Bureau Contact Numbers

Credit Bureau Get Your Record Request Opt-Out Fraud Victims
Experian (formerly TRW) 888-397-3742 800-353-0809 800-301-7195, 888-397-3742
Equifax 800-685-1111 800-556-4711 800-525-6285
Trans Union 800-916-8800 800-680-7293 800-680-7289, 800-680-7289

Data: Relevant Links

The FTC's web page on identity theft

Fair Credit Reporting Act

Data: Some Background Information

This information is of general interest and did not fit clearly into the To-Do categories above.

Any credit card company may cancel your account at any time for any reason. Because of this, you should always make sure you'll be able to pay off your credit card bills immediately at their request, with only a few weeks' notice. (If you can't, you may be considered "in default" and will lose your credit rating, which in turn may cause your other credit cards to close.)

Many organizations have access to your name and Social Security number. Thet include:

Individuals within all of these organizations (including security guards, building maintenence personnell, janitors, etc.) might have access to personal information, and cases of identity theft almost always start that way.

The only Federal laws regarding the use of the Social Security number are those directly relating to Social Security and other government programs, and the behavior of government agencies. Notably:

These laws state that you are, or may be, required to give out your Social Security Number:

- to your employer, so they may report your income, withhold Social Security tax and transfer those taxes in your name to the government

- to the IRS (or your tax preparer) when filing tax returns, estimated tax payments, and other forms associated with taxes

- to the state, city or local tax collection agency (or your tax preparer) in dealing with state and local taxes

- to the Social Security Administration, when applying for Social Security benefits

- to the Immigration and Naturalization Service, when applying for a passport, visa, "green card", or application to petition for citizenship

- when testifying in a court of law, in a deposition or in response to a court order or subpoena, if allowed or recommended by your lawyer.

There are no laws restricting the actions of non-government organizations, individuals, businesses, etc. in asking for your SSN. There are also no laws requiring you to give it. If you don't give it, they can deny services, and there's no law against that either. As of early 2000, the Social Security Administrations was suggesting that you can:

- ask why they need the number - ask how it will be used - ask what law requires you to give the number - ask what consequences will result if you refuse

and then decide whether to give your SSN.

Here are links to information about identity theft from:

Federal Bureau of Investigation

Federal Trade Commission

Internal Revenue Service

Social Security Administration



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