Protect Yourself from Identity Theft
Blog Post October 8, 2020 Identity Theft How to Protect Yourself and The Steps you should Take if you think you’ve been victimized
A few weeks ago I had an elderly couple come into the office who suspected that they’d been victims of identity theft because they started to receive credit card statements and collection notices in the mail from accounts they had never opened. There were thousands of dollars fraudulently charged to credit cards under their names. They suspected a family member was the one who was opening these accounts because the family member knew their personal information such as social security numbers, addresses, telephone number etc. The elderly couple came to me for help, but they insisted that they did not want the suspected family member to arrested for the fraud they were committing. Therefore, I suggested that they protect themselves by freezing their credit accounts which is a great step you can take to protect your accounts and your identity. You can place a security freeze with the three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union) in the form of a letter. Any person in Florida is eligible to place a security freeze on his or her credit report by requesting one by certified mail to the credit reporting agencies listed below in bold. If you’re over the age of 65 or you can provide evidence that you’ve been a victim of identity theft in the form of a police report or complaint to a law enforcement agency regarding the aforementioned identity theft, or if you’re unable to provide evidence or are under the age of 65 but still suspect possible identity theft then you can still freeze your credit reports for a fee of $10. It is usually a good idea to file a Police Report and ask for copies. In the case of the elderly couple they filed a police report, but they never mentioned the suspected family member which is legal to do because it was speculation since they had no concrete evidence of that person actually stealing their identity. With these reports you will need to send one letter to each of the credit bureaus: Equifax P.O. Box 105788 Atlanta GA 30348, Experian P.O. Box 9554 Allen TX 75013, and Trans Union P.O. Box 6790 Fullerton CA 92834-6790. Included in this letter you will need to provide: your full name(including middle initial as well as Jr., Sr., II, III), current address, social security number, and date of birth, if you have moved within the past five years then you will need to provide those a previous addresses as well, provide proof of residence in the form of phone or utility bill, send a photograph copy of a government issued id such as a drivers license, and if applicable payment by check money order or credit card (Visa, Mastercard, American Express, or Discover only). About 5 days after receiving the your letter your credit will be frozen by the three bureaus and approximately 10 days after the freeze you will receive a confirmation letter from the three bureaus containing a PIN which is important and should be kept in a safe place. Now, what happens is that the next time a criminal tries to open an account under your name with your information they will be asked for the pin number and if they do not answer it correctly then the store or credit card company will not allow them open the account. You may be left wondering how this all happens in the first place. Some common ways identity thieves gain access to your information is stealing mail, stealing wallets/purses, using personal information found on social media, sending phishing email scam/ spam emails, and looking through your trash at your home or place of business for personal or banking documents.