New Tools for Consumers in the Fight Against Identity Theft and Credit Report Errors

In the wake of the Great Recession, which, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009, a flurry of federal legislation was enacted to provide support for consumers.  The Fair Credit Reporting Act, which became effective July 21, 2010, was amended to provide for “one-call fraud alerts.”  Under this amendment, if you believe you have become a victim of identity theft, you may call a credit reporting agency, such as Equifax, Experian or TransUnion and provide proof of identity.  After the credit reporting agency receives this call and proof of identity from you, it must include a fraud alert in your file and provide this alert along with any credit score generated using that file for a period of not less than 90 days.  This is essential for protecting your credit in the future.

Consumers who believe they have become victims of identity theft should take the following steps:

Step 1: Place a fraud alert.  Placing an initial fraud alert is free and should be provided to all three credit reporting agencies.   This step is crucial because it will make it more difficult for the identity thief to open accounts in your name.  The contact information for the three credit reporting agencies are as follows:

Equifax:  1-800-525-6285 or www.equifax.com

Experian: 1-888-397-3742 or www.experian.com
TransUnion:  1-800-680-7289 or www.transunion.com

Step 2: Order Credit Reports.  Contact all three credit reporting agencies again and explain that you have placed an initial fraud alert, that you would like to order a free copy of your credit report, and ask each credit reporting agency to show only the last four digits of your social security number on your report.

Step 3: Create an “Identity Theft” or “Credit Repair” File.  Putting a stop to the fraud, and then repairing your credit, will be a time-consuming and arduous process.  You will find that staying organized and maintaining detailed records will help you greatly.  Your identity theft or credit repair file should contain a record of the dates you made calls to the three credit reporting agencies and include copies of all correspondence.

Step 4: Create an Identity Theft Report.   This is a two-step process, the first of which is to create an identity theft affidavit, and the second is to file a police report.  To prepare your FTC Identity Theft Affidavit, contact the FTC at 1-877-438-4338 or www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov.  If you complete the form online, simply click “submit,” and then save the complaint reference number that appears afterward.  Then, click on the “Click here to get your completed FTC Identity Theft Affidavit” link.  Make sure you print or save your Identity Theft Affidavit because you will not be able to save or print it after you leave the screen.  If you file your complaint with the FTC via telephone, ask for the complaint reference number and affidavit password.  The FTC will then e-mail you a link so that you can obtain your Identity Theft Affidavit.

The next step is to file a police report.  Bring the following items to your local police department:  a copy of your FTC Identity Theft Affidavit; any proof of the theft you may have; a government-issued ID with a photo; and proof of your address, such as a pay stub, rental agreement or utility bill.

Ask for a copy of your completed police report and retain it in your identity theft or credit repair file.  Specifically, make note of your police report number.  This number will often be requested when you file disputes with merchants for various charges.  Lastly, attach your FTC Identity Theft Affidavit to your police report and keep a copy of it in your file.

Step 5: Work to Repair Your Credit.  Submit your FTC Identity Theft Report to credit reporting agencies, merchants, health care providers, and such as you work to repair your credit.

Identity theft is occurring more often, due in part to the recent data breaches with merchants, hospitals, and various websites. In next month’s newsletter, look for an article on signs that you may have become a victim of identity theft.

Linda Davis Friedland is an attorney in our Livonia office where she concentrates her practice on commercial litigation, employment and labor law, corporate and business law, estate planning, utilities Law and municipal Law. She may be reached at (734) 261-2400 or lfriedland@cmda-law.com.