You check your mailbox. No mail. Seems strange.
The next day you receive calls from credit card companies checking on your applications.
Next you receive letters from credit card companies. No applications were made by you. You wonder if this is a phishing expedition or scam. You return the call. A credit card was applied for online in your name. You are asked for your social security information and birthdate. You refuse to give them. They refuse to tell you anything except the city and state of the applicant. They tell you they are prohibited from giving you their last name or direct contact information.
You now realize that your credit card, bank and stock and bond statements haven’t arrived in the mail recently.
Your employer tells you that you have applied for Unemployment Compensation. Your employer obtains the application which has your correct social security number and birth date. Your employer knows you haven’t applied and immediately informs the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.
Nonetheless, you later receive a Notice of Revenue Recapture under the Minnesota Revenue Recapture Act notifying you that it filed a claim for a payment wrongly made to you. The claim has been filed against your state tax refund (or rent credit, property tax credit, political contributions, lottery prizes and other tax rebates) including interest and costs. You call and find out the payment was made to an online account in your name at Green Dot Bank. Of course, you didn’t open the account or receive the money.
You call, inform them of all of this and are told by an investigator the claim has been withdrawn. However, you are also told that you won’t receive a written confirmation and the investigator is prohibited from giving you his last name or his direct contact information.
You are frustrated and stressed. You realize your credit and maybe your identity are under attack. What if the bandits file for a tax refund? Or try to withdraw funds from your accounts? Or try to charge on your credit cards?
Here is the immediate action you should take:
- Call your local police department. Make a report.
- Call the credit reporting bureaus and place a fraud alert on your reports. Call one and they will place it with the other two. This lasts 90 days. Here are the numbers:
- Get your free credit reports from www.annualcreditreport.com. Check for any accounts or charges you don’t recognize. You can order a free report from each of the three credit bureaus once a year. Do it!
- Consider placing a “freeze” on your credit with the credit reporting bureaus so no one can get your score or information. Equifax needs a police report and other documentation. The other two allow you to do this over the phone or online. If you place a freeze on your credit, you’ll have to lift the freeze before you apply for a new credit card or cell phone or any service that requires a credit check including insurance.
- Write and call your banks to make sure no unauthorized persons access your accounts. Set up a password on your accounts – so if someone calls in to the bank’s customer service area, they would need a password to do anything with your account or create another account in your name. You could ask that all of your statements be sent to you ‘paperless’ – meaning you would just receive the monthly statements via e-mail.
Close your current accounts and open new ones. You may need to leave funds in your old accounts to cover outstanding checks and identify those to your banker who will monitor your old accounts. This is an effort.
- Call your credit card companies and give them a report of the identity theft to place them on alert.
- Call and write your stock and bond brokers and companies and give them a report of the identify theft to place them on alert.
- Call your post office (800-275-8777) and let them know what has happened. Also make a report to the US Postal Inspector Service (877-876-2455/www.usps.com.). Tell your mail carrier and ask if the carrier knows if anyone else’s mail was taken.
- Place a hold on your mail (https://holdmail.usps.com/holdmail/). Obtain a post office box and forward your mail to it or some other place that’s safe. You will be required to fill out a forwarding request for each person or entity for which you receive mail. You then need to advise every one of your new address. This is a continuing struggle.
- Tell your neighbors. Ask them if their mail was taken and ask them if they’ve seen suspicious vehicles near mailboxes and to alert you and the police if they do see any.
- File Form 14039 (Identity Theft Affidavit) by fax (855-807-5720) with the IRS with a state or federal issued identification. You can also call the IRS at 800-908-4490 but the filing of the form places the IRS on alert for false filling of your taxes. Try to file your taxes early and before a scammer can.
- Call the Minnesota Department of Revenue (651-296-3781) and talk to a person to place a notation and alert on your tax filings. There is no form filing similar to the IRS for identity theft.
- Call the Social Security Administration to check if your address has been changed (800-772-1213). You can also access your social security account online (http://www.socialsecurity.gov/).
- When accessing anything online, you should make sure you are using a secure portal. This will be indicated by the website address. If it begins with “http“ you are not using a secure site. If the address begins with “https”, the “s” at the end of https stands for secure. It means all communications between your browser and website are encrypted.
- Advise your employer of any suspected identity theft in case an unemployment claim is made in your name or fake garnishment papers are sent to your employer.
Identity theft creates a nightmare – both in terms of the present because of all the effort that must be taken immediately to notify all of the possible entities that may become involved and for the future because you are always on the alert for new ways that someone may try to use the identifying information they’ve obtained. Unfortunately, if you fall victim to identity theft, the effort to remedy it is on you. An identity protection company or your insurance company may be of help. If not, I hope the above will help walk you through all of this. I can empathize with you. I have been there – and still am.