Banks continue to receive an ever-growing number of reports regarding identity theft and fraud.Unlike your fingerprints which are entirely unique to you, information such as your bank information, credit card numbers or social security numbers could be stolen and misused at your personal expense.
What are Identity Theft and Fraud?
The short answer is that identity theft is a crime. Identity theft and identity fraud are terms used to refer to all types of crime in which someone wrongfully obtains and uses another person’s personal data in some way that involves fraud or deception, typically for economic gain (US Dept of Justice).
Simple Steps to make in cases of Identity Theft or Fraud
Step 1 – Immediately notify your bank or financial institution
Funds withdrawn or charged to your credit card and bank accounts can not be easily refunded or repaired. What you could do is to close your account or credit line as soon as possible.
Contact your bank if you believe that your personal and credit information has been compromised. Report any stolen credit cards, ATM’s or checking accounts and instruct them to freeze your transactions. People who suffer from cases of Identity Theft or Fraud are protected by specific laws.
The Fair Credit Billing Act clearly states that a person’s maximum liability for unauthorized charges is $50. Transactions made through ATM’s, debit cards and electronic transfers are covered by the Electronic Fund Transfer Act. This law provides that any transaction made after reporting ATM or Debit Card loss shall not be charged against the holder.
If unauthorized purchases and fund transfers are made, account holders have a two day window to report these transactions to avail of the $50 liability limit. Another 60 days is given upon filing a report for Identity theft where the accountholder is only liable for a maximum of $500. When the 60 day period expires the holder is then exposed to unlimited liability.
Step 2 – Notify credit bureaus and establish fraud alerts
Experian, Equifax and Trans Union are the three principal credit reporting companies in the US. When you notify any of the three companies reports are automatically passed with the others. A fraud alert means that your account will be flagged and requires your creditors to contact you before extending any credit.
Under the new provisions of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) an accountholder can place a fraud alert for only 90 days. The three companies will then send you a mail informing you of your rights as an identity theft victim. Upon receiving this mail immediately request for a free copy of your credit report and an extension of the fraud alert to seven years.
Step 3 – Putting a Credit Freeze
Putting a credit freeze requires you to pay fees depending on which state you are located. Fees are waived however if you can prove that you have been a victim of Identity Theft or Fraud. A Credit Freeze prevents credit reporting companies from releasing credit information to new creditors unless you give full consent. This also prevents impostors from opening new credit or loans.
Step 4 – Report to the Authorities or Law Enforcement Agencies
Go to your local police or sheriff department and immediately report your concern right away. Reporting the crime to a police department which has local jurisdiction is also necessary if the crime happens outside your city or state. It is important that you file these cases under “fraudulent accounts”.
Step 5 – Report the crime to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
The FTC does not investigate individual cases of Identity Theft or Fraud but they can establish a pattern to see if your case is a part of a bigger organization. Information is then shared to different law enforcement agencies nationwide.
Step 6 – Review all credit reports
After reporting ID Theft or Fraud to the three credit bureaus, a free copy of your credit report is given. Check for any recent activities and see if there are new loans or credit cards opened under your name. Contact these financial institutions and freeze all transactions. When you have successfully stopped the credit applications and loans ask these banks for documentation.
Step 7 – Replace all Cards, Checks and Account Information
Once you have established that you indeed are suffering from Identity Theft or Fraud request your bank to replace all cards and information. If you see that one of your accounts have been compromised with irregular transactions, the most prudent measure is to change all information even with other banks. If you have access to changing your password change them quickly to disable unauthorized access to your files.
These crimes are committed on a daily basis to thousands of credit card holders across the country and the world. It is a frustrating and disheartening experience to lose hard-earned dollars to unauthorized transactions made on their behalf. But banks could only do so much as these crimes happen without their knowledge and most theft can occur because of a customer’s carelessness with their accounts and personal information.
Steps are done to immediately address the customers concerns but returning the funds and fixing your transactions could take a great deal of time. Continuous progress is being made to secure a customer’s account. But until a foolproof way of safeguarding your information is developed, holders must be responsible for their own accounts.