My iden­tity was stolen — now what?

Know who to call, what steps to take

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - By Tyler Smith

De­spite the great­est plan­ning and ef­forts to pro­tect them­selves, mil­lions of peo­ple ev­ery year are vic­tims of iden­tity theft. Cov­ing­ton Po­lice De­tec­tive DJ Seals, who teaches a course on ID theft pre­ven­tion, ad­mits that even he is at risk of be­com­ing a vic­tim at some point.

“I like to ask peo­ple, ‘What do you do for a liv­ing? Are you good at it?’ So are th­ese folks,” Seals said. “That’s what they do for a liv­ing. This is their job, their ca­reer. It’s not a hobby; it’s how they live. If you are good at what you do, they are good at what they do. If they make a mis­take, they don’t do it again. If some­thing didn’t work, they try some­thing dif­fer­ent.”

So what should peo­ple do if they think they may be vic­tims? First and fore­most, they should check their credit re­ports, Seals said. Equifax, Ex­pe­rian and Tran­sUnion are the main on­line credit re­port com­pa­nies.

Peo­ple can get one free credit re­port from each of them once a year. Seals rec­om­mends us­ing all three re­ports a year.

If peo­ple see some­thing un­usual on the credit re­port, they should call all of their ma­jor bank­ing in­sti­tu­tions and re­port the thefts.

“I don’t care if your Mas­ter Card was stolen, but your check card wasn’t, call them all,” Seals said.

This will al­low the banks to is­sue fraud alerts on the ac­counts. So­cial Se­cu­rity can also is­sue fraud alerts for a so­cial se­cu­rity num­ber.

“Peo­ple al­ways say, ‘Well, I’ve been the vic­tim of iden­tity theft; I’ll change my So­cial Se­cu­rity num­ber.’ You can’t,” Seals said. “It is im­printed with you. But you can change your ac­count num­bers, im­me­di­ately. It’s a has­sle to change you credit card and check­ing num­bers, but you have got to do it to be com­pletely safe.”

Seals also sug­gests doc­u­ment­ing ev­ery step of the process by writ­ing down who was talked to, what time they were talked to and what was said in the con­ver­sa­tion. A po­lice re­port should also be filed.

“Do some­thing to doc­u­ment it im­me­di­ately,” he said. “ Th­ese bank­ing in­sti­tu­tions want to make sure that you are re­ally a vic­tim, so the ear­li­est date you can re­port it, the bet­ter.”

If a per­son finds he has been a vic­tim of fraud­u­lent charges, he should go to the bank and get an af­fi­davit of forgery. An af­fi­davit of forgery sim­ply states that the vic­tim did not au­tho­rize that trans­ac­tion.

“It does two things. It al­lows me to pros­e­cute. I can’t pros­e­cute with­out an af­fi­davit of forgery,” Seals said. “The sec­ond thing is does is al­low you to get your money back. A lot of banks will not give you your money back with­out an af­fi­davit of forgery.”

Once vic­tims pick up their po­lice re­ports, they should make sev­eral copies to be dis­trib­uted to bill col­lec­tors.

“Ev­ery time you get a let­ter or some­thing say­ing, ‘Hey you need to pay me,’ you send them a copy of that po­lice re­port,” Seals said.

All let­ters should be sent cer­ti­fied mail. Seals said it was easy for a com­pany to say they did not ob­tain the mail, but send­ing the let­ter cer­ti­fied en­sures there is a record they signed and re­ceived the cor­re­spon­dence.

“Iden­tity theft can take a very long time for you to feel like you can come above wa­ter again,” Seals said “The way to in­sure that is to take co­pi­ous

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