A recent newspaper article reported that Brevard ranked 137 among the nation’s worst areas for identity theft, up from 156th a year earlier, according to Life Lock, an identity theft protection company. Per Capita, Brevard ranks Number 1, the report said, with 22,654 cases reported to federal authorities in 2009. An estimated 35% of victims never filed a federal report.
Where to file a complaint
The article reported that ” Mike Prusinski of Life Lock said that many victims file a police report but go no further ‘Most victims don’t know to file with the Federal Trade Commission,’ he said. Information filed with the FTC is entered into an identity theft datbase. It helps law enforcement in their investigations. Pursiski said most people think of identity theft as stolen credit card information, but while that is a major problem, it goes further. “
According to Life Lock:
24 percent of identity theft is someone using a victim’s information to file for a tax return before they do.
14 percent is credit card fraud.
14 percent is bank fraud in which someone transfers money out of an account that does not belong to them.
Other identity theft involves people using another’s information to open a cell phone account, utility account or rent a home. “People can get hold of your information to get medical services or file for your tax return,” Pursinski said. “
The above-mentioned article ran front page and the headline garnered much attention, as was intended. However, further research netted this writer some interesting information:
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ): For Release: 03/09/2010
” LifeLock Will Pay $12 Million to Settle Charges by the FTC and 35 States That Identity Theft Prevention and Data Security Claims Were False. LifeLock, Inc. has agreed to pay $11 million to the Federal Trade Commission and $1 million to a group of 35 state attorneys general to settle charges that the company used false claims to promote its identity theft protection services, which it widely advertised by displaying the CEO’s Social Security number on the side of a truck.
In one of the largest FTC-state coordinated settlements on record, LifeLock and its principals will be barred from making deceptive claims and required to take more stringent measures to safeguard the personal information they collect from customers.
‘While LifeLock promised consumers complete protection against all types of identity theft, in truth, the protection it actually provided left enough holes that you could drive a truck through it,’ said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz. ” (WSJ)
Possibly due to frightening news articles, such as the one mentioned above, or for a different reason, according to the Wall Street Journal, in 2008, 33 million people, or 22% of the U.S. adult population, paid for something called “Credit Alert”. Several companies offer this service, including the top three credit reporting bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. A host of others, Master Card and Citi Bank, for example, offer similar services. There is usually a monthly charge and their critics maintain that by the time an e-mail is received, warning the member of suspicious inquiries, the damage is done. Those considering such plans are advised to read the fine print carefully and do their research.
Free credit reports
Those seeking information about their credit status can be tempted by sites that claim to help individuals get a credit report, further risking personal information to fraudsters that can use it against them. The only website for the application of credit report is http://www.annualcreditreport.com. An internet search yields numerous sites, many of which are scams. When individuals visit the wrong site offering a free copy of the Equifax credit report or any other one credit report, they are asked to type in their personal information. Not only do they not see their report but instead have given access to their credit report and the result can be costly.
Local police offer advice, based upon their investigations of actual cases of identity theft:
- Protect your garbage. Believe it or not, identity thieves rummage through trash looking for personal information—and you are at risk whether or not you are wealthy and famous.
- Don’t make it easy for thieves to assume your identity with original documents.To thwart identity thieves, who may pick through your trash or recycling bins to capture your personal information, tear or shred your…
- Charge receipts,
- Copies of credit applications,
- Insurance forms,
- Physician statements,
- Checks and bank statements,
- Credit card statements,
- Expired charge cards that you’re discarding,
- Pre-approved credit card offers you get in the mail, and
- Documents that contain your social security number
- Labels from prescriptions medications that have been peeled off
- Deposit outgoing mail in postal collection boxes or at your local post office, rather than in an unsecured mailbox (such as your own home mailbox!) Raising the red “pickup” flag on a rural mailbox really IS a “red flag” to any identity thief driving by that there may be something useful inside.
- Promptly remove delivered mail from your mailbox. When you’re away from home, have the postal service hold your mail. You don’t want to leave identity thieves a buffet right there in your mailbox.
- If you’re planning to be away from home and can’t pick up your mail (or are called away on an unexpected business trip or family emergency), call the U.S. Postal Service at 1-800-275-8777 to request a “vacation hold” or ask your carrier or a counter clerk for a “Authorization to Hold Mail” form.
Reporting to the FTC
Reporting the theft of an identity is imperative. A report to the local authorities should be followed up with a report to the Federal Trade Commission. According to the FTC, an individual who has suffered identity theft has the following rights:
- To have a police report taken. Many states do not have a specific law about this but if you are persistent you should be able to get a report in the jurisdiction where you live. With a police report you are entitled to:
- A 7-year fraud alert
- A credit freeze in the states that have adopted this procedure into law
- Have inaccurate or fraudulent information blocked from your credit report
- Receive a copy of all application and transaction records on accounts opened fraudulently in your name (FCRA Section 609e) Refer to ITRC Letter Form 100-1
2. Have the account removed from your credit report once you have provided evidence the account is fraudulent. This includes any collection actions or inquiries.
With proper precautions, individuals can lessen their chances of becoming a victim of identity theft. Perhaps the single, most important factor is to remain aware and exercise caution in all areas pertaining to personal information. The Federal Trade Commission web site has a wealth of ideas, well worth time spent reading.