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Sunday, December 21, 2014
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FTC: Report identity theft as soon as possible

Last Modified: Monday, March 03, 2014 10:58 AM

By Andrew Perzo / American Press

Are you required to file a police report if you are a victim of identity theft?

Strictly speaking, no law requires victims of a crime to file reports with authorities. But reporting crimes is the prudent thing to do.

The Federal Trade Commission recommends consumers take three steps once they learn they’ve fallen prey to identity thieves: Place an initial fraud alert with a credit agency; order copies of credit reports; and create an identity theft report, which is a combination of an FTC complaint and a police report.

The initial fraud alert — passed from one credit reporting agency to the others — makes it harder for thieves to open accounts in victims’ names, and an examination of credit reports will allow victims to find any unauthorized accounts or charges.

“If you know which of your accounts have been tampered with, contact the related businesses. Talk to someone in the fraud department, and follow up in writing,” reads an FTC booklet titled “Taking Charge: What to do if Your Identity is Stolen.”

“Send your letters by certified mail; ask for a return receipt. That creates a record of your communications.”

To create an identity theft report, file a complaint with the FTC at www.ftc.gov/complaint or by calling 877-438-4338 — 866-653-4261 for TTY. Take a copy of the complaint with you when you file a police report; attach a copy of the police report to the copy of the complaint and keep the documents with your other records.

The FTC says consumers’ liability for withdrawals and charges made with stolen ATM or debit card information depends on how swiftly they notify banks of the problem.

“It’s best to act as soon as you discover a withdrawal or purchase you didn’t make or authorize. Many card issuers have voluntarily agreed that an account holder will not owe more than $50 for transactions made with a lost or stolen ATM or debit card,” reads the FTC booklet.

“However, under the law, the amount you can lose depends on how quickly you report the loss. If you don’t report within 60 days of the day your institution sent you the account statement showing the unauthorized withdrawals, you could lose all the money an identity thief took from your account.”

Ways to tell if you’ve become an identity theft victim, as listed in the booklet:

You see unexplained withdrawals from your bank account.

You don’t get your bills or other mail.

Merchants refuse your checks.

Debt collectors call you about debts that aren’t yours.

Medical providers bill you for services you didn’t use.

Your health plan rejects your legitimate medical claim because the records show you’ve reached your benefits limit.

Online: www.consumer.ftc.gov.

The Informer answers questions from readers each Sunday, Monday and Wednesday. It is researched and written by Andrew Perzo, an American Press staff writer. To ask a question, call 494-4098, press 5 and leave voice mail, or email informer@americanpress.com.

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