Monday, April 04, 2005

Report Credit Fraud!

If someone has taken out a credit card in your name (without your permssion or knowledge) this is a fraudulent act, often involving forgery or impersonation and is a felony. Fraud is serious and Identity Theft can affect your credit indefinately!

FIRST RESPONSE:
Call your local police or sherrif's department. Tell them what happened and provide any evidence you have, for example, a card statement or unauthorized payment withdrawals from your bank account. Get a police file number and copy of the report. You can choose to press criminal charges if this person has caused financial loss. Good luck finding them!

Next: Go to your bank and stop any payments from going out of your account to a suspect card or account. They may reverse the charges unless they came from a debit card that is directly linked to your bank account. You can close the debit card immediately and get a new card with a new number to prevent further charges. Your bank will advise you on appropriate steps.

The problem with most credit card fraud is that you don't often know that this is occurring until the person who took out the card is long gone...usually after they have maxed out the card and left you holding the bill. Eventually the credit card company will find you of course (you aren't hiding after all). If the bill has been unpaid for a few months, you can expect very upsetting phone calls all hours of the day and night by credit collectors claiming to be 'lawyers'. These people are a subspecies of humanity that do not understand or appreciate the fact you might actually be an innocent victim.

Create a Paper Trail:
Most credit card companies will respond to your complaint if you have proof! So keep that police report and make copies for all who call! Ask to see the original credit application on file with the signature and address the person used to get the card...the card company should be willing to fax or mail you a copy. Then you can dispute it's veracity. Unfortunately, if you have a good credit score, predators may successfully apply for several cards in your name using another address and you may never see a bill or statement.Another form of Credit Fraud is someone gaining access to your debit card and using it as a credit card. Since many banks allow you to use your debit card to make credit purchases...you can do so without a PIN number. One way to avoid this is to ask your bank to put your picture on your card...but not all banks offer this service. The best remedy is to keep your wallet and cards safe! Anyone signing for credit in your name is essentially committing Identity Theft. Unfortunately, unless you report your debit card stolen, it's very hard to get a bank to refund lost funds.

Consumer News:There are bills before state legislatures that would allow consumers to put a freeze on credit information without your permission. There is also a lobby being conducted by large consumer credit organizations to limit this protection, which is now before US Congress which suggests that a federal bill could over-rule individual state laws. You may want to write your congress member. Washington State passed a bill in 2005 allowing individuals who suspect they have been victims of fraud or theft to put a 'freeze' on their credit, preventing anyone from checking their credit without their full authorization.

Federal Trade Commission Site:Check out the FTC's excellent online articles about Identity Theft. You can also report a perpetrator of fraud on their system. Such a person will find it hard to work in the finance industry if they have been reported....and unfortunately some of them do hide out in legitimate organizations to gain access to victims: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/credit/idtheft.htm
Another Consumer Site is Fraud Watch: http://www.fraud.org/

To put a Fraud Alert on your Credit Report call all 3 Bureaus:

Equifax Information Services: 800 685 1111
TransUnion Customer Relations: 800 888 4213
Experian: 888 397 3742

Fraud alerts and reporting are free!

You don't need to pay someone a fee to handle this for you...just be vigilent and keep an eye on your report at least once a year to verify no new accounts have been opened. In some states, as in Washington, you can now put a freeze on your credit so no one can check your credit without your permission. Why didn't we think of that sooner?


Wishing you every credit sanity! Loannetter
©2005 susan templeton