Are You a Fraud Victim?
How to Report Consumer Fraud
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the United States Department of Justice, fraud and identity theft are the fastest growing crimes in the United States. They estimate that nearly 10 million Americans were the victims of identity theft in 2004, alone, and the Justice Department reports that they receive as many as 5,000 calls a week from people reporting that they have been victimized by fraud or identity theft. Once the crime has been committed, it can take years to clear your name. Identity theft is defined as having someone steal and use your personal information, such as your name, Social Security number, driver’s license number, bank account information, or credit card number. Criminals can take this information and use it to open new credit cards, make purchases, or get false identification. Because the victims don’t always realize they have been victimized until months later, they may be embarrassed. As a result, the FTC estimates that as many as 38% of victims never report the crime. Failure to report the crime is especially common if the victim is elderly. They may worry that family members will think they are no longer capable of handling their own finances. However, there are ways recover from these crimes if you know what to do. Below you will find a detailed guide to handling these situations.
Assistance for Fraud Victims
According to the Department of Justice Office for Victims of Crime, victims of fraud and identity theft may actually be the victims of several different crimes. The victim may have had money stolen from their bank account. They could have unknowingly sent money to a fraudulent company. They may have paid for services that they never received. They may have had charges put on more than one credit card and also had their identity used for other illegal purposes. The repercussions can last for months or years. Because their credit may be ruined, they may also have trouble getting a job, being approved for an apartment, or qualifying for a mortgage or other loan. They may also have outstanding criminal warrants that have been issued against them.
Because of the complexity of the crime, victims need to become proactive as soon as they realize that they have become the victim of fraud, identity theft or a stolen ID. Do not ignore the problem and hope that it will go away.
The first step in getting assistance is to report the crime to the police. Get an actual written police report that you can use to show your bank, credit card companies, and other businesses. In the past, these reports have been difficult for some victims to obtain. However, the International Association of Chiefs of Police has taken steps designed to make it easier for victims to get written police reports. When you contact your local police department, ask if there is a victim’s advocate who can assist you in clearing your name. Many police departments can refer you to someone who will help make sure you contact all the proper authorities.
You may also want to read the Amazon book: "Identify Theft for Dummies."
How to Resolve Credit Identity Theft
If you are a credit card fraud victim, there are additional steps you will want to take. After contacting the police department and, hopefully, getting in touch with a victim’s advocate, your next step will be to contact the three major credit reporting companies in the United States. All of these credit reporting agencies have a fraud department and they will put an alert on your name and social security number. At your request, they will also agree to let you know before anyone opens a line of credit in your name. Here are their contact phone numbers:
Trans Union: 1-800-680-7289
You are entitled to a free copy of your credit report from each of them each year. Once you have initially contacted them, wait a month before you request your first credit report from one of them. Then, wait another three months to request another credit report from one of the other credit reporting agencies. Finally, request your third report about six months later. After that, continue requesting credit reports about every 4 months. Act immediately if you believe there is any fraudulent information on your credit report.
File fraud affidavit forms with your creditors, alerting them to the problem. You can obtain these forms from the FTC. Once you have proved that any activity on your account was fraudulent, ask for a letter of discharge from the creditor.
How to Resolve Banking Identity Theft
If your bank accounts have been affected by fraud or identity theft, contact the bank as soon as possible. Ask them to report the fraudulent activity to the ChexSystem company. This is a consumer agency that gathers information about bank account fraud. In addition, if you have had blank checks stolen, altered or misused, immediately put a stop payment on those checks.
The FBI and Consumer Fraud Reporting
If you have been the victim of fraud, you will want to report the case to your local police department, as well as to the FBI. To contact your local FBI field office, you can call telephone information. There is an FBI field office in most large cities. However, you can also locate the nearest FBI field office at fbi.gov. There is a “contact us” tab on the home page. If you click on it, there is another tab for “local FBI offices.” You can enter your zip code, and they will provide you with the contact information for your local FBI field office.
Once you have the contact information for your local FBI office, you can call them directly. Do not be embarrassed. You are the victim. You did not do anything wrong. Even many intelligent, famous and wealthy people have been the victims of fraud. When you contact the FBI, you need to be prepared to give them the following information:
Your full and name and address
A concise explanation of the fraud that was committed
Any information you have about the perpetrator of the fraud, including their name, address and phone number, if you have it.
Any police reports, correspondence, affidavits or other information you have that supports your story.
Get yourself organized before you call. You may find it helpful to write out the explanation of the crime in advance and read it to the FBI agent over the phone. This will help you feel more comfortable, and you will be less likely to leave out any important details.
If you are interested in reading other articles about ways to protect your possessions and personal safety, as well as that of your family, you may also be interested in the following articles:
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