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How To Handle Identity Theft

Do you know what you would do if your identity were stolen?

Unfortunately, I had to answer this question last week.

On Sunday evening, I received a call from Barclays Visa Capital, on behalf of Apple.  The caller wanted to know if I had recently applied for a line of credit at an Apple store.  I responded that I had not set foot in an Apple store in years.  The caller thanked me for the verification and gave me instructions on how to remedy the situation.

Initially, I thought that this was simply a case of mistaken-not stolen-identity.  There are other "John Persingers" in the world.  But my assumption of a coincidence was quickly dispelled.

The next night, Monday evening, I received another call-this time from Dell's Financial Services Fraud Office.  Similar to Sunday's call, this person asked if I had recently applied for a line of credit to purchase a Dell computer.  I told the Dell rep that I had never even considered purchasing a Dell computer.  The caller asked for additional information and told me a fraud investigator would follow up.

Two similar calls in two nights made it obvious that someone was trying to use my identity to procure lines of credit.  It is an easy scam because some stores will let you open a line of credit on the spot and pay for your items using that line of credit.  While the thief walks away with the goods, the person whose name is on the credit line is stuck with the expense.

The explosion of data breaches has contributed to the increase in identity theft.  More individuals' Personally Identifiable Information ("PII"), such as Social Security Numbers or bank account numbers, are being captured through these breaches.  The hackers that steal this information are later selling it online.  Anyone looking to set up a fraudulent line of credit can easily purchase a real person's PII online.

If you suspect your identity has been stolen, here are some steps that you should take to remedy the situation:
*    File a Police Report - Stealing another person's identity is a crime.  Although you may not be able to find the perpetrator, filing a police report may help alleviate any damage.  For example, some companies need verification that you did not actually attempt to open a line of credit.  The police report should provide that verification.
*    Create an Identity Theft Report - Contact the Federal Trade Commission to create an Identity Theft Report, which, similar to the police report, will help with addressing any credit issues.
*    Contact the Credit Reporting Agencies - Contact one of the three major credit reporting agencies-Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union-inform the agency that your identity has been stolen, and ask the agency to put a fraud alert on your credit report.  This will make it harder for a criminal to open a line of credit in your name by requiring companies to verify any credit requests.
*    Monitor Your Bank Account and Credit Cards - Keep an eye on your bank accounts and credit cards for any suspicious activity.  If interested, consider contacting LifeLock or another company that offers identity theft protection.
*    Change Passwords and Account Numbers - Don't hesitate to change the passwords and account numbers for any bank accounts or credit cards.  Along these lines, consider ordering new credit and debit cards.
*    Obtain a new Social Security Number - If you believe that your SSN has been compromised, apply for a new number.

Discovering that your identity has been stolen is not a pleasant situation.  However, these steps should help you minimize the damage.  Of course, if you need assistance with any of these steps or if you have questions about handling identity theft, contact a member of our Emerging Technologies Practice Group.

Also, if you know of someone who might be interested in receiving these e-mails, have them contact vmadden@mijb.com to be added to the distribution list.