Violence at the hands of a domestic partner is often rooted in that partner’s desire to control. This need to control another human being can take the form of physical violence, verbal abuse and in many situations financial control. This is when identity theft comes into the picture in domestic situations.
Often times at the ITRC, we will get phone calls from an individual who has finally made that amazingly brave first step of trying to remove themselves from the situation. Whether they have physically left the shared domicile or are planning their escape, they realize they will need separate financial resources. It is at this time that they realize they have been a victim of identity theft at the hands of the person they once thought loved them.
If you, or someone you know, is in an abusive situation and believes they may also be victim of identity theft we recommend the following steps:
- Check your (and your children’s) credit reports: You can do this for free online at www.annualcreditreport.com. Look for accounts or inquiries that you did not make. It may be a credit card or something as large as a mortgage or a vehicle. Once you check the report you will know if you are a victim or not and can take action accordingly. You will also want to check your children’s credit reports if you have children. You can easily check your child’s credit report for free at https://www.allclearid.com/child.
- Place a 90 day fraud alert: You can place a 90 day fraud alert by phone. Even if an abuser has not used identity theft as a tactic in the past, they may use it as a retaliatory effort once the victim begins the process of separating from the abuser. A 90 day fraud alert will keep them from opening any new accounts.
- File for separation: When an individual is married, the law looks at the two married people as a single legal entity. If you have not filed for separation, the police will look at the situation as a domestic dispute rather than identity theft. In most states you can file for separation on your own.
- Obtain a restraining order: While we understand this is a terrifying step, for many victims of domestic violence it is necessary. The first step is to obtain a temporary restraining order, or TRO, which you can do yourself at your local courthouse. It is free to do this in California, but you may want to check with your state to see whether there is a filing fee or not. Though the restraining order is just a piece of paper, if your abuser violates the order and tries to contact you, they will be at risk of going to jail. This is often a satisfactory deterrent to an abuser.
- Call your bank and creditors: Inform these companies that you are in the process of separation. Place a verbal password that your abuser would not know or be able to guess. Request that no changes be made to your accounts without the verbal password. Also request that no information about the account or the account holder be released.
We know that this is an incredibly difficult situation entangled with emotions and fear. If you have any questions or need further guidance, please call the Identity Theft Resource Center at 888.444.5530 and one of our Victim Advisors will be there to help.
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.