Either through a failed attempt at renewing your driver’s license, an unexpected failed background check during a pre-employment screening, or through some event more traumatizing, like being informed at a traffic stop that you have a criminal record you were not aware of, you’ve discovered that someone has successfully made a fraudulent driver’s license (or state id card) with your information. Now what? I interviewed ITRC’s senior advisor Wilma to get the best tips for resolving driver’s license or state ID fraud.

governmental id theftITRC: What is the most important first step for any victim of driver’s license fraud to take in order to mitigate their case?

Wilma: They should call the DMV Fraud Department in the state where the fraudulent license was issued and inform them that a license was issued in their state using their stolen information.

ITRC: What can be done if the victim needs a new license in the state where as a result of the fraud, someone else already is in possession of a current and active license?

Wilma: When the victim contacts the issuing state’s DMV, the process will vary slightly depending on the state. The victim should ask that particular DMV what they require to be sent to them in order to get the current license suspended or revoked so that the victim can get a valid license issued in his home state.

ITRC: Ok, what next?

Wilma: The victim must file a police report for criminal impersonation/identity theft at their local police dept. They should also check with their local Social Security Office to determine if SSA issued a replacement social security card and how many were issued.

ITRC: And what if the SSA informs the victim that replacement cards they didn’t request have been issued, potentially to the identity thief?

Wilma: In that case, the victim should submit their police report to the Social Security Administrations, and inform them that the prior requests were fraudulent. Request them to furnish you a Work History Report to make sure no one is employed using your Social Security Number. Then check your Credit Reports, and issue fraud alerts. In the event that any fraudulent financial information appears on the Credit Report, the victim will need to contact each of those creditors, inform them that the debt is fraudulent, and submit to each creditor a copy of your police report, along with a written dispute of the charges.

Identity theft is an ever-growing problem. What follows are 5 simple steps anyone can easily take to reduce their risk of becoming a victim of identity theft.

  1. Get that Social Security Card and birth certificate OUT of your wallet/purse/car: I can’t stress this enough, if you’re not going to get a passport or open a bank account, or process your new-hire paperwork for your next job TODAY, then why are your most sacred identity documents still floating around in your purse or wallet? I can’t tell you how often the ITRC works with confirmed identity theft victims whose cases began out of a lost or stolen purse or wallet. Without an SSN or birth certificate, the theft of a wallet is a temporary inconvenience. You’ll have cancel a few credit cards, maybe close a bank account or two, and get yourself a new license from the DMV. If on the other hand if either or both of those documents were inside the wallet or purse when stolen, congratulations; you’ll now be at an exponentially greater risk for identity theft, and numerous other types of fraud….for the rest of your natural existence. That’s not an exaggeration, once a birth certificate or SSN is compromised or exposed; there is NO perfect solution to putting humpty dumpty back together again. You’ve now forced yourself to become the paranoid, mildly panicky consumer you previously may have made fun of.
  2. Shred Your Mail: Most consumers don’t pay attention to the plethora of personal information we throw away in our discarded mail. Our mail often contains vital information that is best protected from the public. Everything from account numbers, contact information, SSN’s, dates of birth, tax id numbers, all can be found in your mailed correspondence. Invest in a shredder and make sure that any document that contains sensitive personal data makes it through the cross cutters before it goes to the trash. Having a locking mailbox is also a good idea.
  3. Check Your Credit Reports: I know you hear this all the time, from a thousand different places right? But do you really understand WHY checking your credit is a good idea? Think of it being similar to a financial X-ray – if you broke your ankle, you would go to the doctor to get it checked out. Chances are a medical professional knows your ankle is broken just from feeling it, but he orders the X-ray anyway. Why? Because the X-ray allows the doctor to identify precisely where the damage is, and hence the best/most appropriate remedy. A credit report is no different. It will show you if damage to your credit worthiness might exist, and may point out where the damage is coming from. Knowing that someone else is using your credit worthiness, and identifying the SOURCE of bad/fraudulent information is obviously the first step in getting it corrected. Checking your credit is the easiest way to find out if someone else is using your financial good name to acquire benefit, at your cost.
  4. Don’t Send Personal Identifying Information (PII) to an Online Employer: Never give your SSN, bank account numbers, or any other personally identifying information (PII) to an employer you’ve never met in person. Searching online for jobs is a fast, convenient way to job search, but consumers should understand that this convenience is not without added risk. If you haven’t had an in person meeting or at least a few phone conversations with your perspective employer, than why does he need your SSN? Make sure you know the organization that may be hiring you before giving any information. Job scams are a very common way for thieves to capitalize on the desperation of others, so make sure you’re careful with what information you send and to whom you send it. A legitimate organization will almost always want an in-person interview before offering a job position.
  5. Don’t Be Lazy with Passwords: Is your password to your online bank account the same as the one to your email, which is the same as the one to your social media page, which is the same as the one to your fantasy sports team? Password laziness is a key way scammers take advantage of you. They find a way to get access to a piece of information that on its own is harmless (maybe a name and the last 4 digits of your social). This seemingly harmless info may be enough to request a password for an online banking account. Now they have access to one account. From there, if you’re not serious about your password selections, you might’ve just made it that much easier for a thief to gain access to your entire life online. Use capital letters and numbers, and change your passwords at regular intervals.

If you found this information helpful, you may want to consider taking part in the Identity Theft Resource Center’s Anyone3 fundraising campaign.  For more information or to donate please visit http://www.idtheftcenter.org/itrc-launches-anyone3-campaign.

Especially in today’s age of accessible information, parents are more and more protective of their children’s information. This is a wonderful thing because the more aware parents are of the risks to their children for identity theft, the less likely their children will become victims themselves.

If a situation occurs that could put your child’s social security number in danger (stolen wallet, information breach, etc.) It is natural for a parent to protect their child using the steps that an adult would use on themselves. The thing that is important for all adults to understand is that the process for children is very different and can have negative results if attempted.

check

It is important to keep in mind that the credit reporting agencies do not know that a person exists until a credit report is started under their social security number. This usually occurs when credit is applied for, like for a credit card, cell phone, student loans, etc. Another way this can occur is if a parent requests a credit report on their child too often. By frequently inquiring into your child’s social security number with Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union, you run the risk of them viewing your credit checks like those done by a creditor. Checking once a year or even once every two years can start a credit history for your child at an age where they should not and cannot be applying for credit. The longer your child has inquiries but not credit on their credit report, the lower their perceived credit score goes. This will make it tougher for your child to apply for credit when they do turn 18 because it will appear that they have inquired for credit, but never received it.

In order to prevent this from happening:

  • Do not check on your child’s credit report unless there is evidence that fraud may be taking place. This can include:
    • Receiving bills or statements under your child’s name
    • Being told your child already has a bank account when you go to open one
    • Problems claiming your child on your taxes
    • Personal information is lost or stolen.
  • Check your child’s credit report when they turn 16 ONLY if one of the above scenarios have occurred. Checking at 16yrs of age allows you time to clear up any fraud that may be occurring before your child turns 18.

Child identity theft is definitely becoming more prevalent on parents’ radars as cases start to be revealed in the media. It is understandable for this concern, but as stated above a parent can do more harm than good if they are overzealous. For more information on child identity theft you can read the Identity Theft Resource Center’s Fact Sheet on Child Identity Theft. If you still have questions you can always call our victim advisor center toll free at 888.400.5530.

If you found this information helpful, you may want to consider taking part in the Identity Theft Resource Center’s Anyone3 fundraising campaign.  For more information or to donate please visit http://www.idtheftcenter.org/itrc-launches-anyone3-campaign.

When most people think of identity theft, they only imagine the financial implications of someone opening up credit cards or writing bad checks. However, there is a whole world of ways that these creative thieves can use a victim’s personal information. One of those ways is medical identity theft and even within this subset of crime there are even more typed of crimes to be committed. One of those is what is called financial identity theft.

Examples of this type of fraud would include a hospital or a doctor billing you for medical services given to another person. The thief may or may not have a copy of your private insurance card. Here are the following steps you should take if you believe you have become a victim of this particular crime.

Ambulance

  1. Contact the billing department of the medical facility or doctor requesting payment. If you are receiving this notice from a collection agency, then contact the collection agency first. Explain that this is a case of identity theft or mistaken identity. If the billing department is reluctant to help, then contact the attending doctor, or the medical facility’s fraud or legal department.
  2. Ask what proof they have that this person is you. There is almost always a physical description of the patient. Does it match you? You might be able to show that your height, weight, skin color, age, blood type, or sex is not the same as the “patient.”
  3. Ask when service was provided. You might be able to prove you were somewhere else during that period.
  4. What service was provided? If surgery was done or a condition was diagnosed, you might be able to prove you don’t have a scar or that condition.
  5. Ask if your Social Security Number (SSN) was used or just a name and address. If your SSN was used, you will need to follow the information in ITRC Fact Sheet 100 – Financial Identity Theft: the Beginning Steps and check your credit reports. This thief may be affecting your credit status in other ways. They may be opening new lines of credit or leaving other collection actions behind.
  6. Ask if this person used your medical insurance card or number. If so, contact your insurance company and report the problem. Ask for a new number on the replacement card. They may also have a fraud department that tracks cases.
  7. File a police report in your city and state of residence. You are a victim of a crime. At your earliest opportunity, obtain a copy of the police report.
  8. Send copies of your affidavit of fraud, the police report, any other supporting documentation proving identity theft to the medical billing department and any additional collection agencies which may be involved. Please remember to mail this documentation certified, return receipt requested.
  9. Once the provider agrees this is a case of fraud or identity theft, get that agreement in writing and keep it in a safe place forever. This is called a Letter of Clearance.

While this seems like an overwhelming amount of activity to clear your name, it is not. It will be difficult and you will be angry that this has happened to you, but it can be rectified. If at any time you need additional help or have questions you can always call the Identity Theft Resource Center at 888.400.5530 to speak with a live Victim Advisor who is trained to help you through this process. There is also additional information on the Identity Theft Resource Center’s website which may be helpful.

While more light still needs to be shown on all the electronic data breaches that are occurring every day, the less flashy and attention-getting forms of attaining personal identifying information should not be overlooked. These “low-tech” strategies for stealing one’s information include stealing wallets or purses, mail theft, sifting through dumpsters for documents, and spying over your shoulder while you handle personal identifying information. The easiest of these forms of identity theft with the lowest risk of detection is looking for your documents in the trash, otherwise known as “dumpster diving.” It is of utmost importance to be vigilant against these forms of theft and one of the easiest ways to minimize low-tech ID theft is to keep a shredder handy around your house or office.

document shreddarThe Identity Theft Resource Center maintains a cutting edge Data Breach Report on the type and number of data breaches in the United States. While electronic data compose the overwhelming majority of data breaches, paper data breaches still make up over 15% of all data breaches reported so far this year. While 15% may seem low, people must be aware that paper breaches can often be much more devastating than electronic breaches. While an electronic breach can be just as devastating, the information compromised in an electronic data breach may be just an e-mail address, a password, or user name.

With Congress starting to take notice of cybersecurity, it is likely that low-tech ID theft, especially paper breaches, may increase as businesses begin to make a greater effort to upgrade their information technology systems. Paper breaches will often have significant amounts of your personal identifying information (PII) with extras such as what your signature looks like, fingerprints, or copies of your photo identification in a file. This is the mother lode for an identity thief. Now, the safest route to take is to simply shred every single piece of paper you throw away, but obviously not everyone wants to take the time and effort to shred that much paper on a daily basis. While you do not have to shred everything, you should always shred the following documents as soon as possible: tax returns, bank statements, credit card offers, old photo identification cards, pay stubs, convenience checks, canceled checks, old Medicare cards, and canceled credit cards or debit cards.

These documents all contain sensitive personal identifying information that an identity theft can use to do considerable damage to you. Use a crosscut shredder, which means that the shredder won’t just cut the paper into long lines, that cuts the paper being shredded into hundreds of pieces which makes it virtually impossible for an identity theft to put back together. For documents containing PII that you must absolutely hang onto, the best thing to do is to scan these documents onto your computer, transfer them to a thumb drive, and then delete them from your computer. Store the thumb-drive either in a safe storage area like a safe or hide it somewhere that a thief would have trouble finding it.

“Shred for Your Protection” was written by Sam Imandoust, Esq. Sam serves as a legal analyst for the Identity Theft Resource Center. We welcome you to post/reprint the above article, as written, giving credit to and linking back to the ITRC Blog.

Social networking sites are a great way for families and friends to stay in contact with each other. They also provide an open forum for people to speak their mind, talk about issues that are important to them, and share photos and memories with the world. Kids and teens have especially taken to this new way of connecting with people. In 2009, 38% of 12 year olds in the United States were members of at least one social network according to the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project. Kids love chatting, sharing real time photos, and instant messaging each other.

This is a wonderful tool for kids and teens to use, but there are certain things that must be taken into consideration, the first being the mental and emotional maturity of the user. Most young people don’t understand that what you post online can be seen by everyone, and is online forever. Pictures, comments, etc. can be viewed by anybody you allow access to. The biggest concern most parents have is stalkers and pedophiles who can use the information posted by kids to pinpoint what school they go to, the rout they take to walk home, if they have after school jobs, or if they will be at a particular location unsupervised like at the mall.

The second concern is that most kids don’t understand the long term consequences of what they post. Some users have found their posts used against them years later when they are applying for college and jobs. Comments about a particular college could result in an application to attend being denied. Pictures and comments at parties and social gatherings could cost you a job. Even pictures that a minor child may think are safe to post or share online could result in criminal charges of child pornography and a permanent record as a sex offender.

The last thing kids and teens need to keep in mind is that anything they post online can be accessed and manipulated by others. Cyberbullies have been known to take pictures from legitimate social networking profiles and create a dummy profile. They may doctor the pictures to depict the original person in compromising and embarrassing situations.

When teaching your children safety online it is always important to stress that nothing they post is 100% guaranteed to be private. Parents should be proactive in monitoring what their children post and talk with them if they see anything they deem inappropriate.

A year ago in May, the ITRC posted ITRC Fact Sheet FS 143, which provided an overview of what the IRS was doing to combat identity theft, and help those victims who specifically had IRS issues because of tax problems created by the identity theft. The content of Fact Sheet 143 was provided by the IRS Office of Identity Protection, and this document is definitely a necessary starting point for anyone who has encountered issues with the IRS caused by returns being filed with your SSN, or reports of a work history that do not belong to you.

The IRS established internal procedures in 2009 to give IRS employees guidance on identity theft issues, and provided the IRS business units methods for handling the unique aspects of identity theft cases. Since 2008, the IRS has also provided a specialized identity theft unit as a service to taxpayers who have been victims of identity theft, and wanted to notify the IRS. This unit has a toll free number (1-800-908-4490) and will work with victims to review their taxpayer accounts and history, and provide guidance on what steps to take to mitigate their identity theft case. This unit has handles hundreds of thousands of consumer calls in English and Spanish. Using these methods, the IRS has been able to mark taxpayer accounts when identity theft has been indicated, establish communications with the affected taxpayer, and proactively investigate returns tied to marked accounts to prevent additional fraud on these accounts. In addition, those identified as identity theft victims may now receive an Identity Protection PIN to ensure that only their verified return is processed, and without delay.

So, what’s new?

In a hearing of the Congressional House Committee on Ways and Means on 5/8/2012, the IRS gave testimony that directly answers the question posed by this blog:

“Over the past few years, the IRS has seen a significant increase in refund fraud schemes in general and schemes involving identity theft in particular. Identity theft and the harm that it inflicts on innocent taxpayers is a problem that we take very seriously. The IRS has a comprehensive identity theft strategy comprised of a two-pronged effort, focusing both on fraud prevention and victim assistance.”

In the area of fraud prevention, the IRS noted that in 2011 identity theft screening filters were put in place to detect fraudulent returns before processing. This is a huge task given 100 million returns to process, and the fact that 10 million taxpayers move and 46 million change jobs each year. IRS has now instituted a correspondence with the sender of a flagged return before that return is processed, and is issuing Identity Protection PIN’s to those who are known to be identity theft victims. For the 2012 tax filing season, over 250,000 “IP PINs” were issued.

Prevention of tax fraud using the identity of deceased taxpayers is also being addressed. The IRS is coding deceased accounts that have been used fraudulently to prevent further future misuse, and marking the accounts of recently deceased taxpayers so that future attempt to use the account will be prevented. The IRS is also working with the SSA to shorten the time required to update Death Master File information into IRS records. They are also working with SSA on a potential legislative change which could help reduce the use of the Death Master File as a source for identity theft SSN’s. And, the IRS has developed methods to us information from law enforcement agencies to flag high risk accounts and help block returns that are filed by identity thieves. Altogether, it is apparent that the IRS is putting serious effort into identity theft prevention methods.

The IRS also testified about their efforts to ease the plight of identity theft victims. By the end of this fiscal year, they will have almost 2500 employees dedicated to identity theft work. In addition to the IP PIN program, IRS has dedicated significant training to employees and call center assistors in order to improve their response to identity theft victims. Coupled with a healthy taxpayer outreach and education effort, it appears to ITRC that the IRS is engaging in a serious campaign to reduce identity theft related fraud and provide needed support to victims.

The full testimony can be found here: http://waysandmeans.house.gov/Calendar/EventSingle.aspx?EventID=293593

‘What the IRS is Doing About Tax Fraud’ was written by Rex Davis. Rex is the Director of Operations at the Identity Theft Resource Center.

Late last week we launched a new survey here at the ITRC. This survey is intended to measure how well parents monitor their children’s social media and mobile device usage. There have been many stories in the news lately addressing serious problems with children on the internet. Issues such as bullying, sexting and identity theft have become a daily staple in the media. Questions are once again being asked as to the appropriate age for children to begin using social media and mobile devices. Another important factor being studied in this survey is what role do parents play in their child’s usage of social networks and mobile devices.

Parent surveyWe are trying to analyze these issues in order to find the best answers for parents and children. Parents are seeking knowledgeable advice on how to ensure the safety of their children. Our latest survey aims to do just that. We are hoping to better understand the practices of parents and children in the social media / mobile devices sphere, so that we may develop a set of best practices to recommend to parents and children alike. A successful completion of the survey will give us the data we need to move forward with creating those best practices based on the reality of today’s parenting.

Of course we wanted to give survey takers some incentive for taking the time out of their day to complete our survey. In conjunction with the survey we launched a contest to win one of five $100.00 gift cards. To enter the contest just visit the ITRC’s website and click on the Do You Have Children Who Use Social Media? link or click here to take the survey directly. The contest will run from May 1, 2012 through May 31, 2012. Five $100 prize winners will be announced and contacted on June 1, 2012. The survey results will be released on the ITRC website shortly thereafter.

The long awaited 2012 Child Identity Theft Report by AllClear ID was recently released, and it revealed alarming information regarding children and identity theft. AllClear ID’s conclusive investigation revealed that 10.7% of children were victims of identity theft in 2011 – a .5% increase from the 2011 Child Identity Theft Report. This report is based upon an extensive database scan of actual accounts rather than a survey, and it concluded that 2875 out of 27,000 American children were victims of identity theft.

The analysis of records revealed that 6,273 records or 59% of cases involved the credit bureaus – showing credit problems. The next category revealed 6, 273 records or 22% of cases involved utility accounts, followed by 1,459 records or 14% of cases involving either property assessments, mortgages, foreclosures, or deeds. The next two categories presented 345 records or 3% of cases involved vehicle registrations, and 214 records or 2% of cases involved Driver’s Licenses. Interestingly, one may wonder why the number of records may be higher than the actual number of confirmed child identity theft cases in the report. According to AllClear ID, many of these records involved cases that faced more than one type of identity theft, which drove the number of records up. In addition, many of these child identities were used for what appeared to be multiple different cases of identity theft.

In recent years, the ITRC has seen an increase in cases that involve more than one type of identity theft. These cases become more complex and difficult for the victims to mitigate. Child identity theft is a serious issue because a child’s identity provides the opportunity for different exploits – financial, governmental, criminal, and medical. Although the ITRC tracks child identity theft cases, we do not recognize child identity theft as a standalone type of identity theft because a case of child identity theft will involve one or more of the types of identity theft mentioned above.

In addition, the AllClear ID report states that children under the age of 5 are being heavily targeted. The percentage of victims in this age range is said to have more than doubled compared to that of last year’s study. The logic behind these findings clearly show that criminals are targeting children of this age because they recognize the value of a younger child’s identity – they are likely to get much more time using the identity before discovery. A child’s identity is recognized as a ‘blank slate’ – posing opportunity, potential and long term options. Children’s Social Security numbers are valuable to thieves because the crime can go undetected for years. A child does not begin to use his or her own identity until he or she has reached the age of 18 – the age a young adult applies for his/her first credit card, purchases his first auto, applies for student loans, applies for a job, or gets ready to do all the things adults do. Younger children pose an opportunity for a thief to enjoy the exploits for longer periods of times, all the while creating a devastating impact on the child’s identity and future.

When identity theft strikes, it can be hard to know where to start.

The goal of the following information is to enhance your working relationship with law enforcement and credit investigators. It includes:

  • Why Should I Have To Do Most Of The Original Work?
  • First Steps: Prior To Talking With The Investigator
  • Making Your Report
  • Behind The Scenes
  • Evidence Issues
  • What You Can Do To Help Your Investigator

One of the most common complaints we receive from identity theft victims is that they feel that law enforcement doesn’t care. Many also complain that fraud investigators at banks and credit card companies don’t appear to have the victim’s best interest at heart. It’s possible, but more likely this feeling is related to poor communication and a lack of information.

The tips in this sheet will help you to focus on the pertinent facts.  It will also help you state your case in a way that is most useful to the police and fraud investigators

WHY SHOULD I HAVE TO DO MOST OF THE ORIGINAL WORK?

Fraud crimes involving identity theft are complicated. As one police detective said, the person who knows the facts and details of this case best is YOU. The ability to solve these crimes is usually contained in the details. When one person tells a complicated story, the person hearing the details may only get a rough idea of the situation. This is often what happens when a police officer takes a fraud report from a victim who may not understand which points are the most important to the case and which points are just not relevant at the time. By writing down the details for yourself, you will outline and organize the case in your mind so that you can tell the story clearly.

FIRST STEPS: PRIOR TO TALKING WITH THE INVESTIGATOR

  1. Prior to speaking with an investigator, start a journal so you can record details as they occur (refer to ITRC Fact Sheet 106 – Organizing Your Identity Theft Case).
  2. Rough Draft: Outline the story, in chronological order, exactly the way that you discovered it. Put down anything you think is important. Don’t censor your thoughts. You’ll edit it later. There are certain things that are important to include:
  • How you first discovered the fraud/theft – who told you and under what circumstances.
  • Any clues you may have as to the identity of the imposter – not guesses, but hard facts.
  • Locations where fraudulent applications were signed or submitted (presented in your name). Get exact addresses whenever possible.
  • Locations where the fraudulent activity occurred and/or purchases were made. Be as specific as possible.
  • Exact addresses where goods, services, utilities were delivered in your name.
  • Home addresses and telephone numbers listed on those applications.
  • Names used either as primary or secondary account holders.
  • The entire account number of any accounts that are referenced
  • The full name, address, phone number and date of birth (if you have it) of any suspect referred to in your case.
  • The names of any companies, investigators, or customer service representatives you have contacted about a potential fraud, and their phone numbers, emails, and fax numbers. Include dates and times you spoke to them and a brief summary of the conversation. You should ask each of these people for a letter to include in your file.
  • Photocopies of any letters, account statements, or correspondence you received regarding this case.

Some of the information on this list can only be obtained after you present a copy of the police report to the merchant or credit provider. Get together what you can for the initial report, then supply the additional information as you receive it.

  1. Working draft: Now write a concise narrative, removing any emotional responses (for example, “He was very rude to me on the phone.”). This draft will lengthen as you uncover more information. [click here for Example of Victim Summary or Narrative]
  2. Include your identifying information:
  • First, middle, and last name
  • Any prior names you had that may be involved in the crime
  • Home and business address
  • Home, business, and cell phone numbers

Be ready to provide, but do not record on this document, the following three items:

  • Date of birth (DOB)
  • Driver’s license number
  • Social Security number
  1. NOTE: Some states are “right to report” states, meaning they will take your report of identity theft regardless of if you have proof or not. Check our interactive map to see if your state is a “right to report” state.

MAKING YOUR REPORT

  1. Listen and Participate
  • Call your local law enforcement agency on the non-emergency number. It is very important to state that you are a victim of identity theft (or a victim of criminal impersonation if it is a case of criminal identity theft). Avoid using the word “fraud” as that is a different type of crime. Ask if they have a fraud or identity theft investigation task force who can take your report. If they do, ask to be transferred. If not, ask to speak to an officer or a detective.
    • Some departments will take your report over the phone, some will direct you to an online form, and some will only file an “incident” report (depending on evidence and situation).
  • Be polite and work with the officer. Make sure you explain that you need a report of identity theft so you can clear your name. In many cases, a thief is operating out of a police officer’s jurisdiction and the officer cannot pursue the case themselves. You can, however, request the officer forward the report to the jurisdiction where the crime occurred.
    • If the officer you are speaking with will not file a report, you can request to speak with the Watch Commander on duty. This is the person in charge of that shift of police officers.
    • If you still cannot file a report, show the officer this letter by the Federal Trade Commission to show the officer the importance of the police report.
    • If you are still met with resistance, go to the next closest precinct and try again. Report all officers who refused to assist you to the Attorney General’s office for your state.
  • Obtain a business card or write down the name and phone number of the officer who took your report, and write down the police report number.
  • Request a copy of the report. Ask how much it will cost and how long it will take to be ready.  They may charge you a fee and it can take up to two weeks for an official report to be made available to you.  Follow up as necessary to ensure you have a copy of your report. You may not receive notification when it is ready.
  1. Asking Your Questions – You may have some questions for the investigator once your report is made. These might include:
  • What are the procedures from this point forward?
  • Who is the primary contact for your case?
  • What should you do if you find out more information, or if you get another collection notice? Should you call, email, or mail it to them?
  • How long will it take to get a copy of the police report (or a letter of investigation if you’re contacting a credit card company)?
  • What can I (the victim) be doing in the meantime? Is there something I can do to move things along faster?
  • Is there any action I (the victim) might take that would harm the case?
  • What chance does the law enforcement officer think they have in catching this person? (Although it’s difficult to accept, your focus should initially be on clearing your name rather than getting an arrest.)
  • Can they provide any written documentation you can use to show you are not the imposter (for instance, a letter of clearance)?

BEHIND THE SCENES – WHAT’S TAKING SO LONG?

The handling of your report and case will depend on the available resources of the agency that takes the report. If law enforcement feels that the case is unworkable, then focus on clearing your name.

  • Your case will be referred to a fraud investigator. Depending on caseload size, this might take several days.
  • You will be called and told who will be covering your case. You may be interviewed by phone or asked to come in. If this is not possible due to work or distance, tell them so and try to arrange for an alternate way to gather information.
  • The detective will triage your case by reading the initial report in order to determine the potential for moving forward with the case. Remember, the better you communicate the crime, the better the opportunity for action.
  • As time permits, the detective will start to gather evidence IF they think there is a chance that they can make a case and find the imposter.
  • Your case will be one of many, as detectives rarely work on one case at a time. Your case may stall while they wait for a credit card company to send them the official copy of a fraudulent application, or while they wait for someone from the bank to return a call. Some banks and credit card companies could take several weeks and several reminder calls before sending out requested information.
  • If the detective is required to get a court order to get information, that will take additional time.
  • Your case might also get preempted if a detective is given a new case where the criminal has just been arrested. Many states have laws regarding a “48-hour rule.” This means that the officer has just one day to put together a case to present to the prosecutor on a suspect who has been arrested so the suspect can be arraigned on the charges within the second court day of his arrest. If not, the suspect must be released and cannot be rearrested for the exact same incident at a later date. So those types of cases always have priority.
  • Detectives rarely close an open case. It may seem like nothing is happening but they do remain aware of your case. Sometimes cases may sit for months with no activity, then suddenly the imposter does something foolish and evidence is found to tie them to your case.

EVIDENCE ISSUES

What might seem to you to be clear-cut evidence might not help your case due to various evidence laws. Law enforcement must clearly prove a chain of evidence that connects the crime to the imposter. For a more detailed look at “The Evidence Trail,” please read ITRC Fact Sheet FS 114.

  • “I threw some old checks in the trash. Why won’t you arrest him?” Taking paper from your trash does not prove that this person passed the bad checks. The police must have conclusive proof. Examples include a witness or videotape of the transaction.
  • “The only place I left an application with my middle initial was at the phone company. It must be the employee who took the info.” Again, where is the proof?
  • “The thief used a credit card to get a computer. I know the address it was delivered to.” The police must prove that the person receiving the merchandise committed the crime.
  • “I know the person who took my identity. He stayed at my house a couple of days.” The police must first prove that you didn’t give the suspect permission to take the info and that this “friend” actually committed the crime.
  • A criminal uses your stolen driver’s license. The imposter could claim, “I must have picked this up from the bar instead of my own. I thought it was mine.”

WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP YOUR INVESTIGATOR

Once you make your report, it is now the investigator’s case. However, you can ASK how you might help and work with them. This is not their only case, so respect their time and be brief in your phone calls. Get right to the point. Remember, rudeness never works. Identity theft cases are slow and may take months to complete.

  • Contact the detective when you have new evidence, but no more than once a week during the active period of the case.
  • Contact your detective once every 3 – 4 weeks even if you don’t have evidence to share. Do NOT telephone them more frequently than this. Ask about the status of the case.
  • Don’t use law enforcement or investigators as a therapist or a person to dump emotional frustration on.
  • Ask what you can do to help move the case forward. Is there anything they are waiting for? Maybe a call to your fraud contact at the bank or credit card company might help.

SOME FINAL THOUGHTS

As much as we would like them to, most identity theft cases do not end in arrest. Usually, this is not the fault of law enforcement; they are overworked and understaffed. Leads may not pan out, and evidence we thought might be perfect may not legally prove a case. We hope that you’re the case will end in an arrest and conviction, but if it does not, know that you did everything humanly possible. Many detectives face unsolved cases while hoping that sometime, somehow, a new piece of evidence will finally prove to be the imposter’s undoing.


Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.