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You got a bill in the mail from some company you never heard of. Turns out some crook found out your social security number, got a driver's license in your name and applied for a credit card. What do you do?
In a Nutshell:
Don't pay the bill or any part of it quckly.
But don't ignore it.
Write a lot of letters
File police reports.
This is not the ultimate authority on identity theft. Although most of it is opinion, anyone who feels as if s/he is a victim of identity theft should feel free to quote from the material here.
This is not legal advice. But feel free to quote from this page when writing to people. Very often bill collectors and others coming after you will include half truths in their letters also, in order to brainwash you.
Identity Theft Frequently Asked Questions
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Here are a few ways in which identity theft can affect you.
A credit card company or bill collector comes to you seeking payment on a loan, car loan, or credit card that you never took out.
The tax collector says you did not pay income tax for wages or other income you never received.
You are charged for a car accident in a city you never visited involving a car you never drove.
You are charged with committing a crime or murder in a city you never were in.
You are denied medical insurance because of a disease or operation you never had.
Whose Fault Is It?
The person who stole the identity and social security number is the small half the problem. The big half of the identity theft problem is the bill collectors, the tax collectors, and the policemen and also the credit bureaus and insurance companies and judges and higher level law enforcement officers.
The victim of identity theft should actually use the words "identity theft" in letters and documents sent in response to a claim. In turn the recipient of these letters and documents, if s/he is prosecuting, building a claim against the victim or seeking redress from the victim, should be immediately aware that the victim's name, social security number, and other so called personal information is no longer evidence that can be used by a plaintiff or prosecutor.
The plaintiffs and prosecutors need to do their homework before bringing a case or lawsuit. Suspects can and should be staked out, this will often reveal that the suspect's habits rule him/her out as being a suspect.
Usually the city where the credit card charges were incurred, the car was stolen, the employer was who paid wages and the employee did not pay taxes, etc. is enough to prove identity theft, the identity theft victim might never have been there.
Here are a few ways in which bill collectors may come after you.
1. By bringing a lawsuit in a distant city.
Suggested response: Write to the finance company, bill collector, or even the court if the suit has already been filed. Say, [quote]The plaintiff has three hurdles, (1) to prove that the defendant was actually involved in the event, (2) that the event was wrongful or negligent, and (3) that the plaintiff was damaged and therefore should recover damages. Until the first is proven, any case must be brought in the jurisdiction where the defendant lives. Because I am claiming identity theft [use those words], my name, address, social security number, mother's maiden name, etc. hereby does not establish probable cause that I was involved.[close quote]. Whether or not the preceding is absolutely true does not matter, include it in letters you write anyway.
2. By sending threatening letters, for example to "put a lien on your home" or "repossess your car".
Respond to each letter in writing, disputing that you owe the money, committed the crime, etc. Say that false papers filed with police or with the registry of deeds (bureau of conveyances, public records bureau, etc.) may result in civil action, possibly involving slander
Keep a diary
This should show dates, times, and places. If you have a car, include odometer readings. This can serve as an "alibi witness" to show you were not at a crime scene. A good diary looks like it was written as the events occurred (the buzz word is "contemporaneous"). If you must copy the information onto another page for neatness, keep the original.
Also save credit card receipts, cash register tapes, and other papers with dates and times on them for at least five years. The more you can demonstrate that you were at certain places at certain times, the more difficult it is for someone else to claim you were at "the scene of the crime".
More on diaries
A social security card is marked "not for identification". By this we mean that no one is entitled to rely on a social security number as correctly identifying the party to a transaction.
Lets imagine that Social Security numbers are outlawed for commercial transactions. Then banks, airlines, employers, etc. will come up with other numbers to identify you and me with. These numbers will be equally accessible by thieves and criminals, producing the same identity theft problem we have today.
Credit Fixing Agencies
The experts say that so called "credit repair agencies" really do not help you. All they do is send form letters to dispute items in your credit report and sooner or later the correct information re-appears.
But you could use a credit repair agency to deal with identity theft. Be sure the agency does things your way, not theirs. You want them to dispute only the bogus charges and specifically not to dispute the accounts you really use for credit.
Don't spend more than about fifty dollars if you want to try a credit repair agency.
There are also some credit monitoring agencies, Privacy Guard (R) is one of the better known ones. For about $75. per year they will notify you every time anybody "pulls your credit report" and also send you forms once a year to check up on such things as adverse reports to your driving record.
Nitpick Often and Quickly
You should pull your own credit report at least every two years. Contact the credit bureau in your city for instructions and fees.
If you see anything incorrect, dispute it even if it looks partly right. For example you work for Acme Technologies but your correct salary is reported under the name "Williamsburg Industries". Send the credit bureau or the IRS or whomever a letter stating that "you never worked for <such and such>". Do not give them the correct information, just say that the entry in the report is wrong. Most likely the name reported is the name of the parent company but in this day and age of identity theft it is worth inquiring and getting an answer.
Don't Sign Letters
For now we suggest not putting your signature on letters you write to people or companies making claims against you. Instead include a paragraph such as this:
"I am not giving you a sample of my signature with this letter. If I did, that would make it easier for you to create documents and papers containing a forgery of my signature. By sending this letter I am not admitting liability for your claim."
If you are requesting information, also add a paragraph like this::
"You must furnish me the information I am requesting without receiving any PIN number, my mother's maiden name, my social security number, or other information that is often used to identify me. I decline to give you any of this information as it will make it easier for you to create false documents and papers that support any claim against me. Meanwhile if yoy do not give me the information I am requesting, you are treating me as an inquisitive nosy unrelated bystander which is the same thing as regarding me as unconnected with your claim and any claim you may have against me is therefore dead".
Repeat this text on every letter you send.
If you are writing a check, you must sign it. But you should not be writing checks to companies or banks or parties who may be making a claim against you.
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All parts (c) copyright 2000, Allan W. Jayne, Jr. unless otherwise noted or other origin stated. Anyone who feels s/he is a victim of identity theft may quote freely from the material on this page, but no one is authorized to publish material on this page in whole or in part without specific permission of the author.
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