Solution 39

The focus of this document is to give suggestions in the case of fraudulent information being reported on a background check or online information search. If you receive/are told there is information that is not yours DON’T PANIC. Information on a background check or an online search does not mean you are a victim of identity theft. Some background check companies and programs will confuse people with similar names, birth dates, etc. or will lump them together into one file.

Your Rights – The FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act) is the primary federal law regulating employment background checks. Despite its name, the FCRA applies to all employment backgrounds checks conducted by a third party whether they include a credit report or not. See A Summary of Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. In addition to the FCRA, there are many other Federal, State, and Local laws and regulations that may impact a particular employment background check. See Background Check Laws & Regulations.

Steps to Take: Make sure you have a print out of the background check or the search results for your records.

  • Fraudulent Credit / Addresses: Check your credit reports with the three credit reporting agencies. These will tell you if there are fraudulent lines of credit, mortgages, collections, or judgements under your information. They will also tell you if there are addresses that are not yours connected to your Social Security number.  You can do this by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com or by contacting each credit reporting agency directly and placing a fraud alert. ITRC Fact Sheet 100 will walk you through what to do if there is fraudulent activity.
    • Equifax (800) 525-6285
    • Experian (888) 397-3742
    • TransUnion: (800) 680-7289
  • Fraudulent Checks / Bank Accounts: Check your consumer reports if fraudulent bank accounts or checks appear on your record. You can do this by contacting the three check verification companies. ITRC Fact Sheet 126 provides the steps on what to do if there is fraudulent activity.
    • ChexSystems (800) 428-9623
    • Certegy (800) 437-5120 or (866) 543-6315
    • TeleCheck (800) 366-2425
  • Criminal Charges: If there are criminal charges on your background check or vanity search read ITRC Fact Sheet 110. Do the following:
    • If there is no indication of a warrant: contact your local police department. Show them the report that you were given. Ask them to verify if the reported criminal record is under your information.
      • If it is not, get a print out from the police stating this. Contact the background check company or website reporting this information. Inform them that they have reported it in error. Send them the letter from the police along with any other information they may need to correct the record. Get a copy of the amended record. You may need to do this again in the future.
      • If the fraudulent criminal charges are being reported under your information, file a police report for identity theft. Follow the steps in ITRC Solution 6 to clear your name.
    • If there is an indication of a warrant under your information, determine if the warrant is in your state or another. Contact your local police department by phone. Ask to speak with somebody in the fraud investigations department or the identity theft department. Inform them of what you found on your background check and that you want to come in to fix the issue. Ask them to meet you at the door to your local precinct. Do not go alone. The danger with these sorts of situations is there is always a chance of the victim being arrested. Have somebody go with you that can get legal help if need be. Follow the steps listed above for talking to the officer. Read ITRC Solution 6 for suggestions on how to clear your name.
    • If there is a fraudulent driving record (traffic tickets, DUI, etc.) contact your state’s agency that handles driver’s licenses. Request a copy of your driving record. This will tell you all traffic violations under your information. Follow the steps in ITRC Solution 6 to clear your name.
  • Fraudulent Employment: Go to the Social Security Administration’s Website to order your Social Security Statement. This statement will tell you if Social Security thinks you have made more money than you actually have in a year. Read ITRC Solution 27 for more information.

You may decide that you wish to pull your own background records. If you do, consult your local police department or the Better Business Bureau for recommendations on a reputable company.

Additional Information:

Individual State Resources ITRC Solution 6 – Criminal Identity Theft ITRC Solution 27 – Fraudulent Work History ITRC Fact Sheet 100 – Financial Identity Theft ITRC Fact Sheet 110 – Criminal Identity Theft (a guide to the crime) ITRC Fact Sheet 126 – Checking Accounts and Check Fraud

This fact sheet should not be used in lieu of legal advice. Any requests to reproduce this material, other than by individual victims for their own use, should be directed to itrc@idtheftcenter.org.

ITRC Solution 28

In general, mortgage identity theft occurs when the individual whose information is being used is NOT party to the financial negotiations or contract. It is a federal crime to misrepresent any information in connection with a loan application. There are two types of mortgage identity theft this ITRC Solution addresses.

  • Fraud for profit: The thief will obtain a loan with the victim’s home as collateral. These types of loans are commonly called equity lines of credit (cashing out) or second mortgages. The home equity loan is most often on the house that you are residing in. Knowledge of an individual’s date of birth, social security number, as well as address makes it easy for victimization to occur.In some extreme cases, the thieves have even transferred ownership into their names and re-sold the home illegally without the owner’s consent. This type of crime will often involve an industry insider. Thieves also target second or vacation homes since this can help them keep up their scams undetected for a longer period of time.
  • Fraud for housing / property: The simple motive behind this type of fraud is to acquire and maintain ownership of a house under false pretenses. A thief will steal someone else’s social security number and other personal information to buy property by using the victim’s good credit and identity.

How can homeowners prevent identity thieves from stealing their property?
FBI officials suggest the following:

  • If you receive any payment books or information from a mortgage company that is not yours — whether your name is on the envelope or not — do not throw it away. Instead, open the envelope, figure out what the documents state, and contact the company.
  • Periodically check all information about your home with the recorder of deeds office in your county. If you find any paperwork you don’t recognize — or any signatures that are not yours — immediately contact your mortgage company and county officials.
  • Check your credit reports regularly.

How to clear your name from a fraudulent mortgage:

  • Place a fraud alert on all three credit reports and request your free copy of your credit reports, due to identity theft. Please refer to ITRC Solution SN 03 – Contacting the CRA’s to Place a Fraud Alert.
  • File an identity theft police report. Use any letters or phone calls from the mortgage company or the information on the credit report as proof. Obtain a physical copy of the police report as soon as possible.
  • DO NOT PAY ANYTHING to the collection agency or mortgage company. Payments can be interpreted as that you are assuming responsibility for the debt.
  • Contact the mortgage company and get the following loan details: loan provider, servicer and borrower. Speak with the Fraud Department and explain that this is a case of identity theft. Never use the words “I want to dispute this account.” You want to get an address to send a fraud affidavit packet.
  • Write to the mortgage company within 30 days. Send them a copy of ITRC Letter Form LF 116 (customized as necessary) along with the necessary documents including a copy of the police report. Request a Letter of Clearance from the mortgage company.
  • Send your statement of fraud, copy of your police report and any supporting documentation to your local county recorder’s office, tax assessor, county clerk, district attorney and the FBI.
  • You may also want to notify the National Notary Association (NNA) if you have notarized stamp on any loan documents or deeds.
  • Send everything Certified Mail Return Receipt Requested. Do not fax them. This way you will have proof they received your documents because you will get back a postcard with their signature on it.

Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the lender or collection agency must stop all collection activity during the investigation. They cannot sell, trade, give away, donate, or loan this account to another entity.

Keep a record of everyone you speak to over the phone. In addition, keep all paperwork you receive and make copies of everything you send out.

For more information, contact an ITRC Victim Advisor toll free at 1-888-400-5530 to guide you through the more specific steps needed in your case.

National Resources for Reporting Mortgage Fraud and Scams:
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
http://www.fbi.gov/
(202) 324-3000 – National FBI Financial Institution Fraud Unit

Mortgage Fraud Hotline 1-800-4FRAUD8 (1-800-437-2838)

This solution sheet should not be used in lieu of legal advice. Any requests to reproduce this material, other than by individual victims for their own use, should be directed to itrc@idtheftcenter.org.

ITRC Solution 06

The following are general steps you must take to clear your name of an erroneous criminal record. These procedures are likely to vary somewhat from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

Working with Law Enforcement Agencies:

  • Contact the arresting law enforcement agency
  • Explain this is a case of misidentification and that someone is using your personal information.
  • Request that the arresting law enforcement agency indicate what form/s of identification or biometric data were collected or captured at the time of arrest or citation (fingerprints, mug shot). Get as much detail about the crime as possible. Who, what, where, when. This information will help you to prove your innocence.
  • Contact your local law enforcement agency.
  • File a “false personation”/identity theft report.
  • Ask your local law enforcement agency to take prints and verify your identity and forward directly to the arresting law enforcement agency. They may want:
  1. A full set of your fingerprints
  2. Your photograph
  3. Any photo identification documents such as a driver’s license, passport, or U.S. legal presence documents.
  • If fingerprints were NOT taken by the arresting law enforcement agency; use signature verification and any relative remarks made on the arrest or citation form by the officer, i.e. scars, marks, tattoos, and height and weight.
  • Request that the arresting law enforcement agency compare the prints and/or photographs to establish your innocence, once your identity has been established, the arresting law enforcement agency should recall any warrants and issue a “clearance letter” or certificate of release (if you were arrested/booked) which you will need to keep in your possession at all times.
  • Request that the arresting law enforcement agency file with the district attorney’s office and/or court of jurisdiction the follow-up investigation.
  • Request that the arresting law enforcement agency change all records from your name to the imposter’s true identity or to John Doe if unknown.
  • Request the arresting law enforcement agency forward a clearance update to the levels of databases that must be cleared include city, county, state, and federal data bases.

Note: Due to authentication issues, most law enforcement agencies will only accept this information in person, or by submission from another law enforcement agency.

Working with the Court:

You will need to determine the specific law(s) in your state that enable you to clear your name in the court records. A judge or magistrate will be required to make this determination.

From the court you will need to request:

  • A declaration that you are factually innocent of charges based upon the follow-up impersonation investigation by the law enforcement agency, or declarations, affidavits, or other material and relevant information.
  • This action will change the name on the arrest records and the warrant of arrest to that of the imposter (if the true identity of the imposter is known).
  • Your name will then be known as an alias of the imposter.
  • The court should be requested to provide written verification for you to carry.

DMV:

If tickets or driving records are involved the victim should contact the Department/Bureau of Motor Vehicles:

  • Ask to speak to the fraud department or investigator.
  • Explain that you are a victim of identity theft
  • Ask for the required procedure to prove you are innocent (perhaps sending letter of clearance from the law enforcement agency).

BAD BACKGROUND CHECKS:

What additional considerations should I be aware of regarding employment?

Follow the steps above then follow up with background check companies individually and with each perspective employer.

Even though you may have cleared up the records with the local, state and federal systems, it is possible for negative information to still pop up on a background report. If this should occur, you must ask the company which background screening company they used. You will then need to show your documentation of clearance to that background screening company in order to clear their records. You probably will also want to provide the clearance documents directly to the employer to help defuse the matter.

This solution sheet should not be used in lieu of legal advice. Any requests to reproduce this material, other than by individual victims for their own use, should be directed to itrc@idtheftcenter.org.

ITRC Fact Sheet 110

What is criminal identity theft?

Criminal identity theft occurs when an imposter provides to law enforcement another person’s name and personal information (such as a drivers’ license, date of birth, or Social Security Number) during an investigation or upon arrest.  This includes the use of counterfeit documents using another person’s data.  The imposter may fraudulently obtain a driver’s license or identification card in the victim’s name and provide that identification document to law enforcement.  Or, the imposter, without showing any photo identification, verbally provides the name and personal information of another individual.

In many cases, the imposter is cited for a traffic violation or for a misdemeanor violation.  The imposter signs the citation and promises to appear in court.  If the imposter does not appear in court, the magistrate may issue a bench warrant, but the warrant of arrest will be under the victim’s name.  The identity theft victim will probably not know there is a warrant of arrest issued under his or her name.  The victim may unexpectedly be detained pursuant to a routine traffic stop and then subsequently arrested because of the outstanding bench warrant.

In some cases, the imposter will appear in court for the traffic or misdemeanor violation and plead guilty without the victim being aware of this event.  This, in turn, establishes a criminal record for those actions; however, that record is now in the victim’s name. In other cases, the imposter is arrested and booked at the county jail for a felony or another serious public offense, such as a DUI.  This arrest or court information is then recorded in the countywide database and is usually transferred to the state’s criminal records database. From there, it may be forwarded to the national crime index database, at the National Crime Information Center (NCIC).

Criminal Record Databases

A criminal record is created when the imposter is first “booked,” or a warrant of arrest is issued.  The problem is that the information in the criminal records database is for that of the victim, not the imposter.  The information is also likely to be entered into the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database.

Some identity theft victims, unaware of the earlier criminal activity by the imposter, may learn of the impersonation when the victim is denied employment or terminated from employment. In these cases, the employer likely conducted a background investigation and had relied upon the criminal history found under the victim’s name.  The employer is legally obligated to inform the victim of the reason for the rejection of employment.  The burden of clearing one’s name within the criminal justice system falls primarily on the victim.  The victim must act quickly and assertively to minimize the damage. The responsibility to correct the erroneous data in the various criminal justice computer systems lies with the officials working within the criminal justice system.  There are no clearly established procedures for clearing one’s wrongful criminal record.

The purpose of this guide is to provide information on the steps you must take to clear your name. Be aware that the procedures to correct the record within the criminal justice databases are likely to be somewhat different from state to state, and even from jurisdiction to jurisdiction within the same state.

Organizing Your Case

In dealing with any identity theft issue, it is vital that you keep a detailed log of all conversations, including dates, names, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses.

  • Please note and record the time spent and any expenses incurred, as you might someday be able to request restitution from the courts.
  • Confirm conversations in writing, especially ones that directly deal with clearing criminal records.
  • Send correspondence by certified mail, return receipt requested.
  • Keep copies of all letters and documents for your files.
  • If you must correspond by e-mail, ask the recipient to verify receipt of the letter with the original message attached.
  • However, we must remind you that electronic messages are not secure and should be used sparingly.
  • Never send anything by e-mail that you would not want publicly published.

See ITRC Fact Sheet FS 106 – Organizing Your Case, to help you track your efforts.

General Steps to Clear Your Name

The following are general steps you must take to clear your name of the erroneous criminal record.  These procedures are likely to vary somewhat from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

Working with Law Enforcement Agencies:

  • Contact the arresting law enforcement agency
    • Explain this is a case of misidentification and that someone is using your personal information.
    • Request that the arresting law enforcement agency indicate what form/s of identification or biometric data were collected or captured at the time of arrest or citation (fingerprints, photo). Get as much detail about the crime as possible. This information will help you to prove your innocence.
  • Contact your local law enforcement agency.
    • File a “false personation”/identity theft report.
    • Ask your local law enforcement agency to take prints and verify your identity and forward directly to the arresting law enforcement agency. They may want:
      • A full set of your fingerprints
      • Your photograph
      • Any photo identification documents such as a driver’s license, passport, or U.S. legal presence documents.
    • If fingerprints were NOT taken by the arresting law enforcement agency; use signature verification and any relative remarks made on the arrest or citation form by the officer, i.e. scars, marks, tattoos, and height and weight.
  • Request that the arresting law enforcement agency compares the prints and/or photographs to establish your innocence. Once your identity has been established, the arresting law enforcement agency should recall any warrants and issue a “clearance letter” or certificate of release (if you were arrested/booked) which you will need to keep in your possession at all times.
  • Request that the arresting law enforcement agency file with the district attorney’s office and/or court of jurisdiction the follow-up investigation.
  • Request that the arresting law enforcement agency changes all records from your name to the imposter’s true identity or to John Doe if unknown.
  • Request the arresting law enforcement agency forward a clearance update to the levels of databases that must be cleared include city, county, state, and federal databases.

Note: Due to authentication issues, most law enforcement agencies will only accept this information in person, or by submission from another law enforcement agency.

Working with the Court

You will need to determine the specific law(s) in your state that enables you to clear your name in the court records. A judge or magistrate will be required to make this determination.

From the court you will need to request:

  • A declaration that you are factually innocent of charges based upon the follow-up impersonation investigation by the law enforcement agency, or declarations, affidavits, or other material and relevant information.
  • This action will change the name on the arrest records and the warrant of arrest to that of the imposter (if the true identity of the imposter is known).
  • Your name will then be known as an alias of the imposter.
  • The court should be requested to provide written verification for you to carry.

Frequently Asked Questions

What if the victim of identity theft lives in one county and the criminal event including the arrest warrant, traffic citation, or criminal conviction originated from another county or state?

  • Work with your local law enforcement agency to follow the steps listed above.
  • Let the local law enforcement agency handle any communication of your identification information to the law agency that issued the warrant.
  • Contact the Department of Motor Vehicles only if the imposter has compromised your driving record or driver’s license number.

What if law enforcement determines the victim’s innocence but doesn’t know the true name of the imposter?

In the event that the imposter’s true name is not yet known, request the “key name,” or primary name is switched from your name to the name “John Doe” with your name noted as an alias.

What if the law enforcement agency does not believe that an imposter committed the crime/s and arrests the victim?

At this point the victim will need legal counsel.  The victim will also need to show any available evidence to prove that he/she was not at the location of the crime when it occurred in order to provide an alibi.  Employment work history and statements from witnesses should be effective.

What if fingerprints were not taken by the arresting officer when the imposter was arrested?

Use signature verification and any relative remarks made on the arrest or citation form by the officer such as scars, marks, tattoos, and height and weight.

Are there any agencies that might help the victim?

The State Attorney General’s Office or the US Department of Justice may be able to assist.  See the ITRC State and Local Resources page for links to your state resources.

Should the victim hire an attorney?

This depends upon the severity of the case.  If the charges are serious and the resolution appears to be complicated and difficult, it would be a good idea to have legal counsel.  However, this is a personal issue to be decided by the victim.

Should the victim change their Social Security number or driver’s license number?

This depends on how severe the case and to what degree the identity has been affected.  Please see ITRC Fact Sheet FS 113 – Should I change my Social Security Number?  and ITRC Solution SN 11 – Social Security Change Check List regarding changing your Social Security Number.

In addition to working with law enforcement and the court system, are there any other steps the victim should take to clear his/her name?

We suggest that the victim check their credit report often for any indications that the issue may have crossed over into financial areas.  We recommend that victims check their credit reports every 4 months, using the free annual credit report system, and staggering the requests.  For more on this, please see ITRC Fact Sheet FS 125 – Federal Annual Credit Report or ITRC Solution SN 03 – Contacting the CRAs to Place a Fraud Alert regarding credit reports.

What additional considerations should I be aware of regarding employment?

Even though you may have cleared up the records with the local, state and federal systems, it is possible for negative information to still show up on a background report.  If this should occur, you must ask the company which background screening company they used.  You will then need to show your documentation of clearance to that background screening company in order to clear their records.  You will also want to provide the clearance documents directly to the employer to help defuse the matter.

Are there any precautions individuals can take to prevent becoming a victim of criminal identity theft?

There is no “early detection” system to alert victims of criminal identity theft.  However, you should take all the same precautions that you would take to prevent financial identity theft.  There are many simple things that can be done to protect your information from use by others, including criminal identity thieves.  Please see ITRC Section on ID Theft Prevention Tips under Victim Resources.

 

This fact sheet should not be used in lieu of legal advice. Any requests to reproduce this material, other than by individual victims for their own use, should be directed to itrc@idtheftcenter.org.

Click here for FTC Memorandum to Law Enforcement of Identity Theft

ITRC Fact Sheet 115

Case Examples

Case 1: “My adult daughter used my information without my knowledge to open several credit cards and buy a car.  She hasn’t paid on any of these accounts and now the bank and credit card companies want me to pay.  What do I do? I don’t want to see her go to jail.”

Case 2: “My father has a gambling problem.  He opened several checking accounts in both my name and my brother’s name.  Then he wrote bad checks for his debt.  He’s 68 years old and my family thinks we should just pay off the debt.  I know that if we do, he’ll just do it again.  What do you advise?”

Case 3:  “My ex-husband is using my 8-year old son’s SSN to open credit cards.  He even got a driver’s license using his information.  How do I stop him?”

Case 4:  “My friend apparently went through my papers one day and found my SSN.  She has several credit cards that she applied for in both of our names.  I found out when I applied for a card and it was denied.   She says she will pay off the cards but can only afford $20 a month.   The credit card companies want all of it now.  I can’t afford to pay these off.  It is more than $10,000.  What do I do?  She won’t sign a letter saying these are really her cards because she is afraid they will arrest her.”

Identity theft is a complex crime at best.  When the imposter is someone known to you, the impact of the crime magnifies dramatically:

You essentially have three choices of action:

  • Proceed as if this was a regular case of id theft.
  • Make a police report (this is not the same as pressing charges against the person)
  • Cooperate with law enforcement’s investigation
  • Work with the creditors to see if a resolution can be made without police involvement
  • Pay the debt and live with the consequences

This guide will address some of these choices and possible solutions.

The Reality of the Situation

Let’s look at this situation from various points of view.

The law:  If you do not report this case, there will be no police report and no investigation.   If you want the protection of the law as a victim of identity theft (and all the benefits you gain as a recognized identity theft victim), you must make a report.  To get the protection of federal and conspirator unless you knew about the fraud and did nothing to stop it, or participated in the fraud yourself.   If you refuse to make a report, you may risk appearing suspect when you try to clear the fraud activity (civil or criminal).

Credit card companies and financial institutions:  The credit card companies and financial institutions want their money back.  That is a reasonable expectation.  It is your task to convince them that another person has taken over your accounts and/or opened new accounts in your name – all without your permission or knowledge.  You will have to prove that you have not benefited financially from these accounts.  Unfortunately, without a police report, your job will be much tougher.  Credit card companies do not take victims seriously without a police report.

The victim: When you personally know the individual who has used your information, the emotional impact of identity theft dramatically increases — the sense of violation and betrayal, the embarrassment for yourself and the imposter, the abuse of trust, even your feeling of how you evaluate others.

You may feel that this decision is not cut and dry.  That feeling is one that many family identity theft victims experience as they begin to explore their options.  This decision has many ramifications, for you and for those who know both you and the imposter.  And those who know both of you may put pressure on you to assume the responsibility for the crime to protect the criminal.

One victim put it this way:

“The person who stole my identity was a friend.  When I first found out, I was angry at what she did to me, apparently without concern for my feelings or financial security.  I reported the situation to the police and then spent the next few weeks worrying about her safety.  Would she be arrested?  Would she be angry with me?  She did get arrested and pled guilty.

The day they took her from the courtroom in shackles was a very difficult day for me.  I had a lot of mixed feelings.  I knew she would not be able to hurt me for a while, that she would pay for her crime.  People told me I should be celebrating.  But how do you celebrate when you get to walk in the sunlight and the person you thought was a friend is behind bars, on a cot, alone and unable to feel the breeze on her face?

It took me a while to stop identifying with her.  I also had to make peace with myself.  I was not the cause of the crime.  I was simply a way for her to get money.  By going to the police, I had actually given her a gift – a chance to change her ways and get her life together.  I finally realized this crime was not about me.  It was about her and her problems.  I was just an innocent bystander.  She was not capable of understanding friendship.”

What If You Suspect the Imposter Is Someone You Know?

Normally, the steps you would take are on ITRC Fact Sheet FS 100 – Financial Identity Theft: the Beginning Steps and ITRC Fact Sheet FS 100A – More Complex Cases.  To review:

  • The first step is to order copies of your credit reports from Experian, TransUnion and Equifax.  These reports are free if you believe you are a victim of financial crime or have been refused credit or a job.  Place a fraud alert on each of them.
  • File a police report, using the information from your credit reports as evidence.
  • Call all the companies or collection agencies listing an account that you have not personally opened or that show a pending application.  Request they send you a copy of the application and transaction records.  Remember, you must send a police report with this request.
  • Remember, you are not liable for this debt, and the company is taking advantage of the fact that you’re a family member if they insist that you pay.
  • Keep trying to get the company to remove the debt.
  • If you have a police report listing all the fraud accounts, the credit bureaus must block the fraudulent accounts from your credit reports within 30 days or provide you with a written response regarding why they will not.

Frequently Asked Questions

What if I file a police report?   Won’t everyone hate me?

The person who used your information showed a lack of concern for your safety and financial good health.  The old saying, “I didn’t think it would really hurt you; the credit card companies just write off the loss,” cannot be allowed as an excuse.  The cost of loss is passed on to all of us in higher prices and taxes.  If you have approached that person and told them you have a problem they caused AND they don’t respond with an offer to make it completely right immediately, they’ve told you their answer.  They don’t care about you and how this affects your life.  Why would you continue to protect someone who is putting you at risk?

By contacting the authorities and cooperating fully, you have not caused this person to be arrested.  They caused this by their own actions.  In your heart, you must understand you did the right thing, sometimes the most difficult action you will ever take.  Be careful if you think this person may become violent.  Do not confront him/her.   Let the police handle the situation and make sure you take the necessary steps to protect yourself.

My family wants me to forgive the imposter and they will help me pay off the bills slowly together.   What are the consequences of this?

If the imposter and credit issuer will cooperate, have the account moved to the imposter’s SSN.   Have the family work out an agreement in writing, signed by all parties, to put the debt in the imposter’s name to pay it off.

UNDERSTAND, if you pay the debt in your name, any negative information on your credit report will remain on your report for seven (7) years.  You have assumed responsibility for the debt, and any negative credit worthiness consequences.

The imposter either will not admit guilt, will admit guilt but not sign any forms. I have conclusive proof of the crime.   How should I proceed?

Proceed as in Question One or Three – the choice is yours.   Either file a police report or pay the bill.

The creditor won’t believe either the thief or me?  Now what?

Assuming you have provided proof, have filed a police report and there is a notarized admission of guilt by the imposter, you need to speak with a higher level person that you are currently dealing with.  Ask for the legal department if all else fails.  See ITRC’s Fact Sheet FS 116 on dealing with collection agencies.

The perpetrator is my ex-spouse or soon to be ex-spouse.  What is the best way to proceed?

If the person has opened up credit cards in your name, without your authorization, we recommend that you have your divorce attorney address this as part of the divorce proceedings or settlement.  If the divorce is final, you may choose to deal with this, as in Question One above, or go back to your divorce attorney for additional court assistance.    Send a copy of the divorce decree with a cover letter to the creditors and let them go after your ex-spouse.  For more information, you can read our ITRC Fact Sheet FS 115A – What if my spouse is stealing my identity?

Does mediation help?

Mediation is a form of civil action.  This is an option if you don’t want to take criminal legal action.  The mediator will attempt to create a structured solution and legally binding agreement as to the circumstances between the imposter, the creditors or collection agencies and you.  However, the downside is that the collection notice or bill still remains on your credit report unless the creditor will transfer the account to the imposter’s Social Security Number (see question 3 above).  If the party refuses to go to mediation, you have to decide – are you going to pay the bill, take them to small claims court and sue them for the amount owed or report them to the police?

Do I need legal assistance?

If your impostor has committed crimes in your name, you should definitely contact a criminal defense attorney and have him/her help you to clear your name from the FBI and state criminal records databases.  See the ITRC Fact Sheet FS 110 – Criminal Identity Theft.  If your family member committed financial fraud, and the creditors will not remove the fraud after you have written letters, you may need to hire a consumer law attorney.  For referrals, contact the National Association of Consumer Advocates, your local or state bar association or other resources in The Identity Theft Survival Kit available at www.idtheft.org. It provides additional attorney-written letters on diskette dealing with this situation.

 

Whatever you decide to do, know the Identity Theft Resource Center is here to help you through this maze.  Please call or email us at itrc@idtheftcenter.org if you want additional help.

This fact sheet should not be used in lieu of legal advice. Any requests to reproduce this material, other than by individual victims for their own use, should be directed to itrc@idtheftcenter.org.

ITRC Fact Sheet 114

Most victims agree – the burden of proving their innocence typically rests solidly on their shoulders. Many law enforcement agencies are receiving more budget money for financial crimes these days, allowing them to upgrade training and add staff, but they continue to struggle to keep up with their caseload.

In June 2004, the Cantwell/Enzi amendment of a federal bill called FACTA finally permitted ALL identity theft victims access to the credit applications and the transaction records in accounts opened fraudulently in their names. The reality is that once an account has been identified as fraudulent, the credit issuer must provide application and transaction information to you and to the designated police, as long as you send a police report with your request. That law is FCRA section 609(e).

Now that victims and their designated law enforcement agencies are being permitted access to documentation about their cases, such as photocopies of application forms, it is important to know what evidence is available and how it might help your case.

With this fact sheet, the ITRC is not encouraging any victim to take the law into his/her own hands. The primary investigator in a crime is and needs to remain, law enforcement. Well-meaning victims can taint evidence, undo the work of weeks or months of an investigation and undermine a case so much that the imposter if caught, might be allowed to go free.

In our work with victims, we have found that many of us are unaware of what information is collected by credit card companies, utility companies and merchants that can help law enforcement prove a case of identity theft. Again, we remind victims to coordinate their efforts with the investigator assigned to their case by law enforcement. Photocopies of all documents a victim is able to obtain should be turned over to his/her investigator immediately.

WHAT EVIDENCE IS OUT THERE?

Financial Identity Theft Cases

  • Application forms or application records
  • Signature cards – for any checking or bank account.
  • Credit history records found on your credit report.
  • Transaction records – the individual purchase slips for any goods bought on a credit or debit card.
  • Billing statements
  • Records of calls made from a specific telephone number – part of the billing statement for a cell phone or telephone utility account.
  • Shipping records
  • Videotapes – often part of a security system monitoring cash registers. Some tapes are only kept 2-4 weeks and then reused.
  • Bankruptcy records

Criminal Identity Theft Cases

  • Department of Motor Vehicles records
  • Arrest records and outstanding warrants, criminal database searches
  • Passport records

Identity Assumption – “Cloning” – Cases (where the imposter uses your information to create a new life for himself/herself)

  • Social Security benefit records
  • Federal IRS tax records, state tax records
  • Employment records
  • Employee photos
  • Department of Motor Vehicles records
  • Credit history information (see financial identity theft, above)
  • Credit card and bank account records
  • Bankruptcy records
  • Mortgage and property records
  • Fictitious business name applications and records
  • Business licenses
  • Passport records
  • Medical and health insurance records
  • Personal records – these include but are not limited to: photos of parties that establish dates, doctor’s reports as to your health condition (or lack thereof), vacation receipts for alibis, passport/visa stamps, etc.
  • School photographs
  • Family photographs or videos

HOW THIS INFORMATION FITS INTO AN INVESTIGATION

The above documentation can provide the following information that the victim and law enforcement can use to prove a case:

  • These records can help the victim to identify the imposter, especially if the suspect is someone personally known to the victim.
  • These records can provide proof that the signature on the form is not that of the victim.
  • Photo records can prove the true identity of the imposter and show conclusively that it is not the victim.
  • Records can shows trends valuable to police and to victims.
  • Records can provide names and addresses where merchandise was shipped. Keep in mind that this does NOT prove the person who received the merchandise is involved. He/she might be an innocent bystander whose address is used because they are at work during delivery times.
  • They can pinpoint the possible location of the imposter, for example, through a business license or traffic tickets.
  • Phone records or transactions could point to potential witnesses to the crime.
  • Records can establish the location of transactions and the number of imposters. For example, if the information is used in several locations at the same time, this may indicate several imposters are involved.
  • Such records can establish the method of theft.
  • The records might point to information that establishes how the original information was obtained. Examples include a middle initial that was used only on a cell phone application, a legal name only used for payroll purposes, etc.
  • Multiple fraudulent accounts might help to convince a bank or credit card company that this is a genuine act of identity theft and not just a customer finding a way to not pay a bill.
  • Finally, since many financial institutions and credit card companies require subpoenas prior to the release of information to law enforcement, such records could help investigators to specify exactly which documents are needed for court evidence in their warrants.

If you have any problems getting information, speak only with fraud investigators or supervisors who are the decision makers who can best help you.

 

This fact sheet should not be used in lieu of legal advice. Any requests to reproduce this material, other than by individual victims for their own use, should be directed toitrc@idtheftcenter.org.

ITRC Fact Sheet 112

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. They may be right. But this also may be partially due to poor communication. We all adjust our communication styles depending on the environment. At work, we talk one way and at home, we could cover the same topic in a variety of different ways. The same is true in crime investigations.

Our victim advisors have often listened to a victim talk about his or her case for 15 or 20 minutes — without being told the pertinent facts or having the victim clearly identify what they need from us. (That’s one of the reasons ITRC is here, to provide the emotional outlet you might need.)

This fact sheet will help you state your case in a way that is most useful to the police and to fraud investigators at financial institutions. The tips in this sheet will help you to focus on the pertinent facts and see your case the way they do.

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

Fraud crimes 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 another person a story, especially a complicated story, the person hearing the details usually gets a rough sketch 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 really can be left for another time, or are just not relevant. After all, most of us are not professional investigators. The result is that a detective may determine that the case is not workable, when in fact it may be. By writing down the details, you will also outline and organize the case in your mind so that you can easily tell the story quickly.

FIRST STEPS: PRIOR TO TALKING WITH THE INVESTIGATOR

1. Prior to talking with an investigator, start a journal so that you can record details as they occur (refer to ITRC Fact Sheet FS 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 (including department or store) where the fraudulent activity occurred and/or purchases were made. Get exact addresses if possible.
  • Locations (exact addresses) where goods, services, utilities were delivered to in your name.
  • Locations listed as home addresses on those applications.
  • Telephone numbers listed on all applications and orders.
  • Names used either as primary or secondary account holders.
  • The entire account number of any accounts that are referred to.
  • 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, phone numbers, emails and fax numbers of anyone you have contacted about potential fraud. Include what dates and time 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 received by you regarding this case.
  • Remember that not all of this information will be available or easy to get. However, try to obtain as much relevant information as you can.

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.

3. 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.

4. 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, cell phone, and pager 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

MAKING YOUR REPORT

Law enforcement officers carry large caseloads. They need to get the information as quickly and as accurately as possible. It is important that we spend their time wisely. After all, the point is for them to catch the bad guys.

1. Listen and Participate

  • Give the investigator a paper copy of the narrative you have prepared. This may save everyone some time and avoid forgotten details. Find a secure way to send a copy to them if you only talk by phone, such as a fax (with send receipt), or U.S. Mail certified, return receipt requested.
  • Listen to the questions asked and direct your answers to those questions. Usually, investigators have a specific form that they need to fill out. It is designed to cover all the information, without any details falling through the cracks.
  • If there is an area you feel has been left out once the preliminary form has been completed, now is the time to add the details you feel are relevant.
  • Provide copies of any documentation you have. Let the investigator know of any evidence you think might be available.

2. Question and Communicate

  • Write down any questions that you want to remember to ask your investigator prior to his/her arrival or phone call. Take notes. The more you know about this process, the better prepared you will be.
  • What are their procedures from this point forward?
  • What are their priorities on the case?
  • Will you always have the same investigator on the case? (You want to know who will be your primary contact.)
  • What should you do if you find out more information that may help them, or what to do if you get another collection notice? Should you call, email or mail it to them?
  • How soon until you can get a copy of the police report (or a letter of investigation from a credit card company)? What are the procedures for getting it?
  • When will you hear from them next?
  • 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 difficult to accept, probably your best course of action is to focus 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

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, focus on clearing your name.

  • The first thing that will happen is that 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, trying to determine the potential of 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 cases. Detectives rarely work on one case at a time. Many times your case will 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 take several weeks and several reminder calls before sending out the 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 re-arrested 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 months with no activity and suddenly the imposter does something foolish and evidence is found to tie them to the 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.

WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP YOUR INVESTIGATOR

This is the investigator’s case. They must be in charge of the investigation, or you could taint the case. However, you can ask how you might help and work with them. Remember, however, that your theft is not their only case. Please respect their time and be brief in your phone calls. Get right to the point. 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 by following the advice we have provided, your case will end in an arrest and conviction. Should it not, however, know you did everything humanly possible. And please note that many detectives leave unsolved cases on their desk hoping that sometime, somehow, a new piece of evidence will finally prove to be the imposter’s undoing.

 

This fact sheet should not be used in lieu of legal advice. Any requests to reproduce this material, other than by individual victims for their own use, should be directed to itrc@idtheftcenter.org.