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Each year, more than 15 million Americans have their personal information — including name, social security number, bank account or credit card numbers stolen. Often times, thieves use this information to open phony credit card, bank or utility accounts. Identity theft can have a far reaching and disastrous impact on victims by destroying their personal credit, preventing them from purchasing a home or even getting a job. Those who fall prey often face an uphill battle to restore their good name.
If you believe you are a victim of Identity Theft, you must takes steps quickly to ensure that further damage is not done to your credit. You will need to file a report with the Newberry Township Police Department and this can be done in one of two ways. First, you can come to the police department during normal business hours and speak to an officer. Second, you can contact the York County Communications Center at 717-854-5571 and request an officer respond to your residence. This can be done at any time, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Upon completion of this it is recommended that you do the following:
1- Contact each of the three credit bureaus and place a fraud alert on your credit reports. This will flag your credit reports and prevent further damage by the thief. While it should only be necessary to contact one of the three listed below, we recommend contacting all three. Fraud alerts require an entity or business to verify a person’s identity before issuing credit. Fraud alerts also enable you to receive free credit reports from the credit bureaus in order to identify fraudulent activity or accounts. Note, The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires each major nationwide credit bureau to provide consumers with a free annual credit report which can be obtained through www.annualcreditreport.com. The credit bureau contract information is as follows:
2- Close accounts that may have been compromised. Contact your bank and credit card companies, if necessary, and open new accounts. If there are already fraudulent charges on your accounts then request the appropriate dispute forms from the bank or other involved financial institution. Avoid using a common account security such as mother’s maiden name because a thief may already have that information. Instead, assign a unique password that you have never used in the past.
3- Obtain and complete an Identity Theft Affidavit for each compromised for each fraudulently opened account. You, as the victim, are required to prepare this affidavit stating that you did not commit the fraud. A copy of this affidavit is often required, coupled with a police report number, to be submitted to every creditor, business, and debt collector through which a fraudulent account or transaction has occurred. A copy of an Identity Theft Affidavit that is accepted by most businesses, creditors and debt collectors can be obtained at the Federal Trade Commission website at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/resources/forms/affidavit.pdf
4- Report the crime to the Federal Trade Commission. You can file a complaint online at www.ftc.gov/idtheft or call the FTC’s Identity Theft Hotline, toll-free: 1-877-IDTHEFT (438-4338); TTY: 1-866-653- 4261; or write: Identity Theft Clearinghouse, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20580. This information is then processed into the Consumer Sentinel Database that is available only to law enforcement officers.
HOW DO THEY DO IT?
Enterprising criminals can gather remarkable amounts of information about a victim through the debris of everyday electronic transactions. They can use this information to gain access to all of the victim’s financial information. The most common way thieves get information is by stealing a victim’s wallet. However, other ways include looking over a victim’s shoulder at an ATM or phone booth to capture a PIN, stealing from a victim’s mailbox, digging through discarded trash, or fraudulently ordering a copy of the victim’s credit report. Shredding all important papers with bank account numbers is prevention worth taking.
Some of these techniques have been supplanted by more technologically savvy methods. Perpetrators use telemarketing scams to trick consumers into revealing personal information. People misrepresent themselves as law enforcement agents, social workers, or other authority figures to obtain the private data of others from banks and other financial institutions. Some individuals even go online to purchase fake IDs, including birth certificates, driver’s licenses, and Social Security cards. In the most advanced cases, hackers penetrate corporation’s databases and download credit card numbers and other information.
To prevent becoming an identity theft victim, people need to:
- Keep personal information private
- Check financial information regularly
- Obtain a copy of a credit report annually
- Maintain careful records of banking and financial accounts
Where can I learn more about Identity Theft and online fraud?
- Read more about preventing and dealing with Identity Theft at the Federal Trade Commission’s web site.