The Palm Springs Guru wants you to learn how to protect yourself from identity theft; I hope this information is helpful.
Review Your Accounts and Credit Reports
Regularly review statements from your accounts and periodically obtain your credit report from one or more of the national credit reporting companies.
You may obtain a free copy of your credit report online at www.annualcreditreport.com by calling toll-free 1.877.322.8228, or by mailing an Annual Credit Report Request Form (available at www.annualcreditreport.com) to: Annual Credit Report Request Service. P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA, 30348-5281. You may also purchase a copy of your credit report by contacting one or more of the three national credit reporting agencies listed below.
|•||Equifax, P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, Georgia 30374-0241. 1.800.685.1111. www.equifax.com|
|•||Experian, P.O. Box 9532, Allen, TX 75013, 1.888.397.3742. www.experian.com|
|•||TransUnion, 2 Baldwin Place, P.O. Box 1000, Chester, PA 19016. 1.800.916.8800. www.transunion.com|
Consider Placing a Fraud Alert
You may wish to consider contacting the fraud department of the three major credit bureaus to request that a "fraud alert" be placed on your file. A fraud alert notifies potential lenders to verify your identification before extending credit in your name.
Security Freeze for Credit Reporting Agencies
You may wish to request a security freeze on your credit reports. A security freeze prohibits a credit reporting agency from releasing any information from a consumer’s credit report without written authorization. However, please be aware that placing a security freeze on your credit report may delay, interfere with, or prevent the timely approval of any requests you make for new loans, credit mortgages, employment, housing or other services. If you have been a victim of identity theft, and you provide the credit reporting agency with a valid police report, it cannot charge you to place, lift or remove a security freeze. In all other cases, a credit reporting agency may charge you up to $10.00 each to place, temporarily lift, or permanently remove a security freeze.
To place a security freeze on your credit report, you must send a written request to each of the three major consumer reporting agencies by regular, certified or overnight mail at the following addresses:
|•||Equifax Security Freeze, P.O. Box 105788, Atlanta, GA 30348|
|•||Experian Security Freeze, P.O. Box 9554, Allen, TX 75013|
|•||TransUnion Security Freeze, Fraud Victim Assistance Department, 2 Baldwin Place, P.O. Box 1000, Chester, PA 19016|
To request a security freeze, you will need to provide the following:
|•||Your full name (including middle initial, Jr., Sr., Roman numerals, etc.)|
|•||Social Security number|
|•||Date of birth|
|•||Address(es) where you have lived over the prior five years|
|•||Proof of current address such as a current utility bill|
|•||A photocopy of a government-issued ID card|
|•||If you are a victim of identity theft, include a copy of either the police report, investigative report, or complaint to a law enforcement agency concerning identity theft|
|•||If you are not a victim of identity theft, include payment by check, money order, or credit card (Visa, MasterCard, American Express or Discover only). Don’t send cash through the mail.|
The credit reporting agencies have three business days after receiving your request to place a security freeze on your credit report. The credit bureaus must also send written confirmation to you within five business days and provide you with a unique personal identification number (PIN) or password, or both that can be used by you to authorize the removal or lifting of the security freeze.
To lift the freeze to allow a specific entity or individual access to your credit report, you must call or send a written request to the credit reporting agencies by mail and include (1) proper identification (name, address, and Social Security number), (2) the PIN number or password provided to you when you placed the security freeze; and (3) the identities of those entities or individuals you would like to receive your credit report or the specific period of time you want the credit report available. The credit reporting agencies have three business days after receiving your request to lift the security freeze for those identified entities or for the specified period of time.
To remove the security freeze all together, you must send a written request to each of the three credit bureaus by mail and include proper identification (name, address, and Social Security number) and the PIN number or password provided to you when you placed the security freeze. The credit bureaus have three business days after receiving your request to remove the security freeze.
Suggestions if You Are a Victim of Identity Theft
|•||File a police report. Get a copy of the report to submit to your creditors and others that may require proof of a crime.|
|•||Contact the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
The FTC provides useful information to identity theft victims and
maintains a database of identity theft cases for use by law enforcement
agencies. File a report with the FTC by calling the FTC’s Identity Theft
Hotline: 1-877-IDTHEFT (438-4338); online at http://www.ftc.gov/idtheft;
or by mail at Identity Theft Clearinghouse, Federal Trade Commission,
600 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. Also request a copy
of the publication, "Take Charge: Fighting Back Against Identity Theft"
|•||Keep a record of your contacts. Start a file with copies of your credit reports, the police reports, any correspondence, and copies of disputed bills. It is also helpful to keep a log of your conversations with creditors, law enforcement officials, and other relevant parties.|
Take Steps to Avoid Identity Theft
Further information can be obtained from the FTC about steps to take to avoid identity theft through the following paths: http://www.ftc.gov/idtheft; calling 1-877-IDTHEFT (438-4338); or write to Consumer Response Center, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580.
Maryland residents can learn more about preventing identity theft from the Maryland Office of the Attorney General, by visiting their web site at http://www.oag.state.md.us/
North Carolina residents can learn more about preventing identity theft from the North Carolina Office of the Attorney General, by visiting their web site at http://www.ncdoj.gov/Help-for-
Vermont residents may learn helpful information about fighting identity theft, placing a security freeze, and obtaining a free copy of your credit report on the Vermont Attorney General’s website at http://www.atg.state.vt.us
Massachusetts residents are reminded that you have the right to obtain a police report and request a security freeze as described above. The consumer reporting agencies may charge you a fee of up to $10 to place a security freeze on your account, and may require that you provide certain personal information (such as your name, Social Security Number, date of birth and address) and proper identification (such as a copy of a government-issued ID card and a bill or statement) prior to honoring your request. There is no charge, however, to place, lift or remove a security freeze if you have been a victim of identity theft and you provide the consumer reporting agencies with a valid police report.