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Identity theft is the fraudulent use of another person’s identity generally to gain access to credit, assets or other benefits under that person’s name. The person suffering from identity theft can suffer many adverse consequences.

There are a number of different types of identity theft. 

  • Criminal identity theft (posing as another person when apprehended for a crime)
  • Financial identity theft (using another's identity to obtain credit, goods and services)
  • Identity cloning (using another's information to assume his or her identity in daily life)
  • Medical identity theft (using another's identity to obtain medical care or drugs)
  • Child identity theft

This article will focus on the steps one should take for financial identity theft.

What are the steps I should take if I'm a victim of identity theft?

If you are a victim of identity theft the first step you should do is put a fraud alert on all of your credit reports and frequently review your credit to make sure no new accounts are opened in your name.  There are three credit reporting companies but you need only to call one to have the alert placed.

If you discover that accounts were improperly opened in your name, you need to immediately close these accounts and notify the fraud departments of each company where the fraud occurred. You will have to dispute the transactions.  I strongly advise you to notify all companies in writing by certified mail. If fraud has been done on existing accounts, then the fraud department will most likely have you fill out a fraud affidavit where you will state under the penalty of perjury that you were not the one that made the transactions. I also strongly advise you to fill out a police report, as it adds additional corroboration to your claim of fraud.

There are two types of fraud alerts, an initial alert and an extended alert.  An initial alert stays on your credit report for 90 days and potential creditors must use “reasonable policies and procedures” to verify your identity prior to issuing credit in your name. Once you place an initial fraud alert you are entitled to one free credit report from each of the three consumer reporting companies.

You are entitled to a seven year fraud alert or extended fraud alert if you present the reporting agency with an identity theft report. Here a potential creditor must actually contact you or meet you in person prior to issuing you credit.  You also are entitled to two free credit reports within twelve months from each other from each of the three credit reporting agencies. A fraud alert will not protect you from identity theft on existing accounts; it only helps prevent the opening of new accounts in your name.


What’s the difference between a credit freeze and a fraud alert?

A credit freeze will limit access to your credit report by anyone unless you have a relationship with the company.  An example of a “relationship” is your relationship with your current credit card or Mortgage Company.

If you have any other questions concerning identity theft, please contact me, George M. Gilmer, Esq., a Brooklyn Debt Relief attorney for further details.