In this last installment of our Identity Theft Series, we will tell you more about your rights when dealing with certain kinds of identity theft.
Your liability for credit card charges that you didn't authorize is limited to $50 per card. To dispute fraudulent charges, contact the credit card issuer within 60 days of the day the credit card issuer sends you the bill showing the fraudulent charges. If an identity thief changed the address on your account and you don't get your statement, you are still liable. YOU are responsible for keeping track of your statements. If your statement doesn't arrive on time, contact your credit card company.
Within 30 days of getting your complaint, the credit card company must send you a letter acknowledging it, unless you complaint has been resolved. The company must resolve the dispute within 2 billing cycles, or in less that 90 days after receiving your complaint.
Bankruptcy Filed in Your Name
If you believe someone filed for bankruptcy in your name, contact the U.S. Trustee in the region where the bankruptcy was filed. The U. S. Trustee Program refers cases of suspected bankruptcy fraud to the United States Attorneys for possible investigation and prosecution. The U.S. Trustee can't provide you with legal help, so you may also need to hire an attorney. You can find regional U.S. Trustee offices at www.usdoj.gov/ust or in the Blue Pages of the phone book under U.S. Government Bankruptcy Administration.
If an identity thief has tampered with your investments or brokerage accounts, contact your broker, account manager, and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). You can file a complaint with the SEC at www.sec.gov/complaint.shtml or call them at 1-800-732-0330.
If an identity thief isn't paying the bills on accounts that were opened in your name, then you will have to deal with debt collectors. To stop contact and collection action, contact the debt collector, the business that opened the fraudulent account, and the credit reporting companies. Once you have explained that you are an identity theft victim and provided you Identity Theft Report or other documents that detail the identity theft, there are certain actions the collectors and companies must take. The collector must suspend collection efforts until it sends you written verification of the debt. If the collector works for another company, it must tell the other company you are an identity theft victim. The business must give you details about the transaction if you ask, and you should! For example, if you dispute a debt on a credit card account you didn't open, ask for a copy of the application and the applicant's signature.
If you have filed you Identity Theft Report with the credit reporting companies, and it has been accepted, the companies must tell the debt collector that the debt may be caused by identity theft. Then, the debt collector can't sell or transfer the debt or report it to a credit reporting company. To permanently stop calls and letters from a debt collector, simply write a letter to the debt collector and tell them to stop contacting you about the debt. After the debt collector gets the letter, it can't contact you again, except once to say it won't contact you again, or that it plans to take specific action. Sending this letter should stop calls and letters from the collector, but it doesn't prevent the debt collector from suing you to collect the debt. Sample letters and more information can be found at www.ftc.gov/idtheft
If your government-issued identification, like your driver's license, passport, or Medicare card, has been lost stolen, or fraudulently misused, contact the agency that issued the identification. For a driver's license, you should contact the DMV in your state and cancel the lost or stolen item and get a replacement, as well as ask the agency to put a note in your file so no one else can get a license or ID in your name. If you passport has been lost, stolen, or is missing, contact the U.S. Department of State at www.travel.state.gov/passport or find a local Department of State office online or in the Blue Pages of the phone book.
Sometimes an identity thief steals mail and uses it to get your personal and financial information, open new accounts, or commit tax fraud. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service investigates cases of identity theft and wants you to contact them and make a report at https://postalinspectors.uspis.gov or simply go to you local post office to find the address.
An identity thief may use your personal and financial information to get telephone, cable, electric, water, or other services. Report fraudulent accounts to the service provider as soon as you discover them. If you need additional help, you can contact your state Public Utility Commission. You can find them by searching online at www.naruc.org/commissions or check the Blue Pages of the phone book. If you need help with cell phone or telephone services, you should contact the FCC at www.fcc.gov/cgb or by calling them at 1-888-225-5322.
An identity thief may use your personal or financial information to get a student loan. Contact the school or program that opened the loan and ask them to close the loan. You will also want to contact the U.S. Department of Education at www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/oig/hotline.html or by calling them at 1-800-647-8733.
Misuse of Social Security Number
If an identity thief has stolen your Social Security number, they may sell it or use it to get a job or other benefits. Contact the Social Security Administration when you discover any misuse of your Social Security number by calling 1-800-772-1213 or by visiting you local Social Security Administration Office. You can find a local office online at www.socialsecurity.gov.
If someone uses your Social Security number to get a job, the employer will report the person's earnings to the IRS. When you file your tax return, you won't include those earnings. But, IRS records will show you failed to report all of your income, and you can expect to get a letter from the IRS. If someone uses your Social Security number and files a tax return in your name before you file, they may get your refund. When you file your own return later, IRS records will show the first filing and refund and you will get a letter from the IRS.
If you think someone has misused your Social Security number to get a job or tax refund - or the IRS sent you a notice indicating a problem- contact the IRS immediately. Specialists will work with you to protect your account. You can call them at 1-800-908-4490 or go online at www.irs.gov/identitytheft to report the fraud and ask for the IRS ID Theft Affidavit Form 14039. You will also need to send copies of any documents you have pertaining to your identity theft such as your police report or Identity Theft Report, along with proof of your identity.
Medical Identity Theft
If an identity thief gets medical treatment using your name, the thief's medical information-blood type, test results, allergies, or illnesses- can get into your medical file. Information about the thief can be added to your medical, health insurance, and payment records. If you suspect an identity thief has used your medical information, get copies of your medical records. Under federal law, you have a right to know that's in your medical files. Contact each doctor, clinic, hospital, pharmacy, laboratory, health plan, and anywhere you believe the thief has used your information. For example, if a thief got a prescription in your name, ask for the record from the pharmacy that filled the prescription and the health care provider who wrote the prescription. You may need to pay a fee to get copies of your records.
A provider might refuse to give your copies of your medical or billing records because it thinks that would violate the identity thief's privacy rights. A provider who think that is mistaken: you have the right to know what's in your file. You can visit www.hpi.georgetown.edu/privacy/records.html to review your state law rights. If a provider denies your request, you have a right to appeal. Contact teh person the provider lists in its Notice of Privacy Practices, the patient representative, or the ombudsman. Explain the situation and ask for your file. If the provider refuses to provide your records within 30 days of your written request, your may complain to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office for Civil Rights at www.hhs.gov/ocr. Notify your health insurance company and all 3 credit reporting companies.
The medical provider or office that created the information must change any inaccurate or complete information in your files. They also should tell labs, other health care providers, and anyone else that might have gotten incorrect information. If an investigation doesn't resolve your dispute, ask that a statement of the dispute be included in your record. If a debt collector contacts you about a medical bill incurred by an identity thief, you can follow the same course that you would if it were a financial account.
As always, it is extremely important to keep detailed records of all calls made, copies and return receipts on all letters sent, all letters received, and any reports filed. You will need to keep this information for life in case something else comes up or the original problem presents itself again. Recovery from Identity Theft is a long hard journey, but it can be accomplished.
For more information about your rights and identity theft, please visit www.ftc.gov/idtheft.
The information in this post is based on the FTC's "Taking Charge" booklet.