ID Theft as Abuse in a Domestic Violence Situation

ID Theft as Abuse in a Domestic Violence Situation

Domestic abuse situations are often about power and control. One form of control many are not aware of is an abuser using identity theft to ensure their victim cannot escape to start a new life. Additionally, some abusers may steal their victim’s personal information to impersonate them on social media in order to humiliate them or put them in danger. For domestic violence victims, the theft of their or their children’s identities can have a deep, lasting effect on their lives.

Seeking safe shelter, securing a new job and even opening a new bank account can be very difficult for domestic violence victims whose abusers have used identity theft to ruin their credit or good name. Any safety planning should also include keeping personal information (as well as children’s information) safe.  This includes protecting social security numbers, birth certificates and account information.

Below are steps you can take to protect your identity from your abuser:

  1. Find a safe place to stay. If you have a restraining order against an abuser, be sure you are aware of Full Faith and Credit Provisions that make your restraining order valid.
  2. Some states participate in address confidentiality programs for domestic abuse survivors. Check with your state for rules and eligibility. If it is safe to do so, visit  National Coalition Against Domestic Violence or by phone at (303) 839-1852.
  3. If it is safe to do so, open a post office box that only you can access. Abusers may apply to offers in your name that come in the mail. Opening a post office box will redirect mail in your name to the post office box. Check with post office box centers to for confidentiality policies before opening a box.
  4. Monitor your incoming and outgoing mail. Shred all documents with your personal identifying information. Mail off bills from a post office instead of a home mailbox. An abuser may retrieve mail in an attempt to open up credit cards in your name..
  5. Contact the U.S. Postal Inspection Service if you suspect your mail is being stolen by your abuser. If you think your abuser has falsified a change of address form you should also contact the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. Visit https://postalinspectors.uspis.gov/ to find your nearest USPIS office.
  6. Review and monitor your credit report for suspected fraud. Contact the three credit bureaus to obtain a copy of your credit report.
    P.O. Box 740241
    Atlanta, GA 30374
    1-800-525-6285
    www.equifax.com
    P.O. Box 9554
    Allen, TX 75013
    1-888-397-3742
    www.experian.com
    P.O. Box 6790
    Fullerton, CA 92834
    1-800-680-7289
    www.transunion.com
  7. Guard your personal identifying information such as your Driver’s License, Social Security Card, and passport.
  8. If you suspect identity theft, file a police report with law enforcement with the assistance of a domestic abuse counselor.
  9. Report the Identity Theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Creating an Identity Theft Affidavit from the Federal Trade Commission can be very helpful in assisting law enforcement  with creating an Identity Theft Report and can also be used at times in place of a police report if you are unable to obtain a report from your local law enforcement agency. Report all of the inaccuracies you have identified on your credit report and anything else you know about the crime.  Go to www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft to report online and print out an Identity Theft Affidavit when you are finished.  You may also contact the FTC at 1-877-IDTHEFT (1-877-438-4338), to file your report by phone, and request that they send you an affidavit of the report that you filed by phone.
  10. If you suspect your Social Security number has been used, contact the Social Security Administration Fraud Hotline at 1-800-269-0271, or visit the Social Security Administration website at www.ssa.gov/oig/hotline/ssnmisuse.htm
  11. For immediate support and crisis intervention contact a domestic violence program in your area. To find a local program in your area contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE.

Downloadable Brochures:

Sources: National Coalition Against Domestic Violence NCADV, Federal Trade Commission (FTC)