Frequently Asked Questions:
- What is Identity Theft?
Find out more here.
- How do thieves steal an identity?
Identity theft starts with the misuse of your personally identifying information such as your name and Social Security number, credit card numbers, or other financial account information.
For identity thieves, this information is as good as gold. Skilled identity thieves may use a variety of methods to get hold of your information, including:
- Dumpster Diving. They rummage through trash looking for bills or other paper with your personal information on it.
- Skimming. They steal credit/debit card numbers by using a special storage device when processing your card.
- Phishing. They pretend to be financial institutions or companies and send spam or pop-up messages to get you to reveal your personal information.
- Changing Your Address. They divert your billing statements to another location by completing a change of address form.
- Old-Fashioned Stealing. They steal wallets and purses; mail, including bank and credit card statements; pre-approved credit offers; and new checks or tax information. They steal personnel records, or bribe employees who have access.
- Pretexting. They use false pretenses to obtain your personal information from financial institutions, telephone companies, and other sources. For more information about pretexting, click here.
- Are there resources available for Spanish speaking victims?
Yes. Check out “Robo de Identidad“ to find printable posters, forms, documents, and more and the victim guide “Defend, Detect, and Defer,” known in Spanish as the”Detener, Detectar, y Defenderse.”
- How long can the effects of identity theft last?
It’s difficult to predict how long the effects of identity theft may linger. That’s because it depends on many factors including the type of theft, whether the thief sold or passed your information on to other thieves, whether the thief is caught, and problems related to correcting your credit report.
Victims of identity theft should monitor financial records for several months after they discover the crime. Victims should review their credit reports once every three months in the first year of the theft, and once a year thereafter. Stay alert for other signs of identity theft. The longer the inaccurate information goes uncorrected, the longer it will take to resolve the problem.
- How can you find out if an identity has been stolen?
The best way is to monitor accounts and bank statements each month, and check credit reports on a regular basis. If credit reports are checked regularly, a victim may be able to limit the damage caused by identity theft. Unfortunately, many consumers learn that their identity has been stolen after some damage has been done.
- A victim may find out when bill collection agencies contact them for overdue debts they never incurred.
- A victim may find out when they apply for a mortgage or car loan and learn that problems with their credit history are holding up the loan.
- A victim may find out when you get something in the mail about an apartment they never rented, a house they never bought, or a job they never held.
- What do thieves do with a stolen identity?
Identity thieves use information in a variety of ways.
- Credit card fraud:They may open new credit card accounts. They may change the billing address of credit cards so a victim no longer receive bills, and then run up charges on the account.
- Phone or utilities fraud:They may open a new phone or wireless accounts, or run up charges on an existing account. They may use a victim’s personal information to get utility services like electricity, heating, or cable TV.
- Bank/finance fraud:They may create counterfeit checks. They may open a bank account and write bad checks. They may clone ATM or debit cards and make electronic withdrawals, draining victim’s accounts.They may take out a loan.
- Government documents fraud: They may get a driver’s license or official ID card issued in a victim’s name but with their picture. They may use a victim’s name and Social Security number to get government benefits. They may file a fraudulent tax return using a victim’s information.
- Other fraud: They may get a job using a victim’s Social Security number.They may rent a house or get medical services.They may give a victim’s personal information to police during an arrest.
- I’d like to host an outreach event in my community. What resources are available to our coalition?
Read the Guide “How to Plan and Host” to learn how to plan an event in your state.
- My state doesn’t have a NITVAN identity theft coalition yet. I’m wondering how to find out about others in my community who may be interested in collaborating. Where should I go to learn about others in my area? There may be several structures in place in your community to help you find organizations interested in collaborating. Examples:
- The Governor’s Office in your state may have a grant coordinating office, and/or an office for crime control and victims’ issues. Each Governor’s Office may refer to these divisions by different titles, so check with the Governor’s Office in your state to find out more
- Your locality may have a Coordinating Office for Criminal Justice. This type of entity is called by many names in different places. Do a web search with keywords to find if your area has one of these entities.
- The National Association of VOCA Assistance Administrators posts a list of state VOCA contacts, and lists these contacts by type, making it easier to find the contacts you may be looking for.http://www.navaa.org/link_matrix.html
- Fifteen states have existing VOCA-supported general victim assistance coalitions:http://www.navaa.org/links.html#coalitions
- How should I advise a victim who is considering buying an identity theft protection service or product and wants my opinion? Is this a good idea?
Check out the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Page “To Buy or Not To Buy.”
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, says before a victim pays for an identity theft prevention product or service, they should make sure to understand exactly what they are paying for.
Many people find value and convenience in paying an outside party to help them exercise their rights and protect their information. At the same time, some rights and protections they have under federal or state laws can help them protect their identities and recover from identity theft at no cost.
Knowing and understanding their rights first can help them determine whether — or which — commercial products or services may be appropriate for them. You can help them understand the rights available to them.
- What is Medical Identity Theft and what can be done to help victims?
Medical Identity theft occurs when personal information is used to obtain medical treatment, services or health insurance without someone’s knowledge or consent. For more information visit, My Identity Was Used to Receive Medical Benefits.
- Are there special rights for members of the Military?
Members of the military do have some unique rights. Find out how military personnel and their families can help fight back against identity theft and some of the unique needs of the military by visiting the Federal Trade Commission’s Web Site for Military Families.
For assistance with making identity theft network connections, joining a coalition, training, presentation material, additional information or victim support, please contact us.