Kathleen G. Kane - Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General - Protecting Pennsylvania Consumers

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FAQs

 

Q: What is Identity Theft?
A: Identity theft occurs when a criminal uses another person's personal information to
take on that person's identity. Although it can occur online most identity theft occurs via
stolen wallets and personal identification documents.


Q. How will I know if any of my personal information has been used by someone else?
A. The best way to find out is to obtain your free annual credit report. If you notice
accounts on your credit report that you did not open or applications for credit
("inquiries") that you did not make, these could be indications that someone else is using
your personal information without your permission.


Q. What is a Fraud Alert?
A. It is a message that credit issuers receive when someone applies for new credit in your
name. The message tells creditors that there is possible fraud associated with the account
and gives them a phone number to call (yours) before issuing new credit. When you call
the credit bureau fraud line, you will be asked for identifying information and will be
given the opportunity to enter a phone number for creditors to call.


Q. What should I look for on my credit report?
A. Look for instances of any accounts that you don't recognize, especially accounts that
were opened most recently. Look at the inquiries or requests section for names of
creditors from whom you haven't requested credit.
Look in the personal information section for addresses where you have never lived. Any of
these things might be indications of fraud.
Be vigilant of other possible signs of identity theft, such as calls from creditors or debt
collectors about bills that you do not recognize, or unusual charges on your credit card
bills.
If you find items you do not understand on your report, call the free credit report provider.
They will review your report with you over the phone. If the information cannot be
explained, then you must call the creditors involved and report the crime to your local
law enforcement office.


Q. What happens if I find out that I have been a victim of identify theft?
A. You should immediately notify your local law enforcement agency, contact any
organizations involved and notify the credit bureaus. For information on what to do, see
our Corrective Action Checklist


Q. I called the credit bureau fraud line and they asked for my Social Security number. Is
it okay to give it?
A. The credit bureaus will ask for your Social Security number and other information in
order to identify you and avoid sending your credit report to the wrong person.


Q. Do I have to call all three credit bureaus?
A. No. If you call just one of the bureaus, they will notify the other two. A fraud alert will
be placed on your file with all three and you will receive a confirmation letter from all
three.


Q. Why can't I talk to someone at the credit bureaus?
A. You must first order your credit reports. When you receive your reports, each one will
have a phone number you can call to speak with someone in the bureau's fraud unit. If
you see anything on any of your reports that looks unusual or that you do not understand,
call the number on the report.


Q. How long does it take to receive my credit report?
A. It could take approximately two to three weeks from the day you call the credit
bureaus.
If you have placed a fraud alert on your report, it will take approximately 5 to 10 days
from the time you call the credit bureau to get your Fraud Alert Confirmation Letter with
instructions on how to order your credit report. You should receive your report(s) within
one to two weeks from the time they are ordered.
If this waiting period is unacceptable to you, you may want to purchase an online report
(approximately $10, see Check Your Credit Reports for more information and links).


Q. How long does a fraud alert last?
A. An initial fraud alert lasts for 90 days. You can remove an alert by calling the credit
bureaus at the phone number on your credit report. If you want to reinstate the alert, you
can do so.
If you are the victim of identity theft, you can place an Extended Fraud Victim Alert on
your report by submitting a copy of a valid identity theft report that you have filed with a
federal, state or local law enforcement agency. An Extended Alert will remain on your
report for seven years.


Q. Will a fraud alert stop me from using my credit cards?
A. No. A fraud alert will not stop you from using your existing credit cards or other
accounts. It may slow down your ability to get new credit. Its purpose is to help protect
you against an identity thief trying to open credit accounts in your name. Credit issuers
get a special message alerting them to the possibility of fraud. Creditors know that they
should re-verify the identity of the person applying for credit.


Q. Can I still apply for credit after I place a fraud alert on my credit report?
A. You should still be able to get credit. While a fraud alert may slow down the
application process, you can prove your identity to a prospective creditor by providing
identifying information.


Q. Should I contact the Social Security Administration and change my Social Security
number?
A. The Social Security Administration very rarely changes a person's SSN. And the mere
possibility of fraudulent use of your SSN would probably not be viewed as a justification.
There are also drawbacks to doing so. The absence of any history under the new SSN would
make it difficult to get credit, continue college, rent an apartment, buy a house, open a
bank account, get health insurance, etc. In most cases, getting a new SSN would not be a
good idea.


Q. What should I do if someone uses my Social Security number to claim unemployment
benefits or to work?
A. If you suspect that someone else has claimed unemployment benefits using your
Social Security number, you should:

  1. Contact the SSA immediately. Sometimes, an identity thief will use
    someone else's Social Security number to be able to work.
    It is a good idea to check your Social Security earnings record to see if a thief is using
    your Social Security number. You can get a copy of your earnings record by calling 1-
    800-772-1213. Or get a Request for Social Security Statement (Form 7004) at
    http://www.ssa.gov/online/ssa-7004.html. If a thief is using your Social Security number,
    call the Social Security Fraud Hotline at 1-800-269-0271.
  2. Contact the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry, Unemployment Compensation immediately. Failure to report that your Social Security number is being used by someone else to file for UC benefits could result in affecting future benefits filed legitimately by you in the future. It could also result in an "overpayment" of UC benefits being established in your name. UC fraud can be reported at www.uc.pa.gov by clicking on the Report Fraud link. You should also contact your local UC Service Center. A list of local and toll-free Service Center phone numbers can be located at http://www.uc.pa.gov/portal/server.pt/community/contact_us/19972.

Q. What if my checks or bank account information were stolen?
A. Close your bank account. Open a new one with a new account number. Tell the bank
you want to use a new password for access to your new account. Do not use your
mother's maiden name or the last four digits of your Social Security number. Ask your
bank to notify the check verification company it uses.
Report stolen checks to the check verification companies that retail stores use. You can
also contact major check verification companies. Ask that retailers who use their
databases not to accept the checks on your closed account.
Check Verification Company Contacts:
TeleCheck 1-800-710-9898
International Check Services 1-800-366-5010
To find out if the identity thief has passed bad checks in your name, call SCAN at 1-800-
262-7771.


Q. If your driver's license or DMV-issued ID card was stolen?
A. Immediately contact your local DMV office to report the theft (Pennsylvania residents
should call 1-800-932-4600).
If the thief is using your license as ID, you may want to change your license number. Ask
DMV for an appointment. Take a copy of the police report and copies of bills or other
items supporting your claim of fraud. You will also need to prove your identity. Take
current documents such as a passport, a certification of citizenship or naturalization, or a
U.S. military photo ID.
DMV will issue a new driver's license or ID card number when you meet all the
requirements.