By Sharon Frankenberg
According to the most recent figures from the Bureau of Justice statistics, 11.7 million people were victims of identity theft between 2006 and 2008. Congress made identity theft a federal crime in 1998 when it passed the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act. This act made the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) responsible for logging complaints by victims of identity theft and referring them to law enforcement and the major national credit reporting agencies. The FTC has a very good website at www.ftc.gov with many resources available to the public, including identity theft complaint forms.
Tennessee has passed its own legislation, the Identity Theft Victims’ Rights Act of 2004. This state law imposes duties on private entities and businesses that discard materials containing customers’ personal identifying information to protect this information from disclosure. Most importantly, this law makes identity theft a Class D felony, punishable by two to 12 years in jail and a fine of up to $5,000. A victim of identity theft under this law may receive all rights afforded crime victims under the Tennessee Constitution and the Tennessee Victims’ Bill of Rights, including the right to receive restitution. Furthermore, the identity theft victim may bring a private civil lawsuit against the thief and may recover damages and reasonable attorney’s fees as well.
If you believe you have been a victim of identity theft, you should take the following actions:
1. Place a fraud alert or security freeze on your credit file with the major credit bureaus at Equifax (800)525-6285, Experian (888)397-3742 and Trans Union (800)68-7289.
2. Review your credit reports at Equifax (800)685-111, Experian (888)397-3742 and Trans Union (800)888-4213. Ask for contact information of any grantors of credit who opened fraudulent accounts.
3. Close any tampered accounts or unauthorized accounts. Contact all creditors immediately with whom your name has been used fraudulently.
4. File a police report where you live.
5. File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (877)438-4338 www.consumer.gov/idtheft.
6. File a complaint with the United States Postal Inspector if you suspect an identity thief has used the mail to commit a crime against you or has filed a change of your address (800)275-8777 www.usps.com/postalinspectors/fraud/MailFraudComplaint.htm.
7. File a complaint with the FBI Internet Fraud Complaint Center www.ifccfbi.gov.
8. Alert the Passport Office www.travel.state.gov/passport/lost/lost_849.html.
9. File a complaint with Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance, Division of Consumer Affairs www.state.tn.us/commerce/contact.shtml.
10. Report the misuse of your Social Security number to the Social Security Administration (800)269-0271 http://oig.ssa.gov/report-fraud-waste-or-abuse.
Be careful with your personal information and demand that companies be vigilant with your information as well. Obviously, this article does not cover every issue which might arise. You should always contact an attorney to get advice and assistance with your unique situation.