How to Remove Fraudulent Lines of Credit

You just learned you have a new credit card account by checking your credit or because a bill collector called you. Problem is that you don’t remember ever applying for it. You must find out what’s behind this new account and how it got there.

  • Call the corresponding phone number listed with the account seen on your credit report.
  • Begin the process for disputing the entire account.
  • Get the name (and employee ID number) of every person you speak to and a transaction or reference number for every phone call.
  • Speak to the fraud specialist for the issuer of this new account.
  • Maybe you did apply for it. If you didn’t, find out if there are any charges on it.
  • If the issue isn’t cleared up with one phone call, see what your options are to put a freeze on the account while things are being checked into.
  • Get your free credit reports from TransUnion, Equifax and Experian to see how this new account appears.
  • If you’re still in a quandary over this, put a fraud alert and security freeze on all three reports.

Taking Matters Further

  • If it’s fraud, file an ID theft complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. You’ll get an identity theft affidavit online; immediately print it because it can be viewed only once through the FTC’s system.
  • Next, bring the ID affidavit form to the police, plus other documents relevant to your case, and file a report. Don’t assume your problem is too trivial.

What if the credit card issuer is not helpful?

  • Send a certified letter requesting they freeze or even close the account.
  • Include with that letter a copy (not the originals) of the FTC affidavit and police report.
  • The letter should request written proof of the authorization for opening this account.
  • Another request: written statement absolving you from any responsibility towards charges on this mysterious account.
  • Did you know that the creditor has 30 days or less to send you a written summary of its investigation?

If you’ve been assured that the account will be removed, don’t just take their word; follow up to make sure this was done.

You should not be responsible for any debts incurred by this fraudulent account. Any negative notes on your credit report, related to this account, should be wiped clean.

What if after all that, the account still remains open and you feel the case was not handled properly? File a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Hopefully you won’t have to hire an attorney, though that’s also a next step.

Robert Siciliano is an identity theft expert to TheBestCompanys.com discussing  identity theft prevention.

Credit/Debit Card Identity Theft Concerns Trump Terrorism

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert

recent Unisys study found that, in the midst of the global financial crisis, American’s primary fear is credit and debit card fraud. 68% of those surveyed are extremely or very concerned about the security of their credit or debit card data, and 66% are extremely or very concerned about identity theft.

Compare that to 58% who are extremely or very concerned about terrorism and war, and 41% who fear the possibility of a serious health epidemic. If we actually had a pandemic, I’m sure the public would favor health concerns over money. But so be it.

Credit card fraud comes in two different flavors: account takeover and new account fraud. Account takeover occurs when an identity thief gains access to your credit or debit card number through criminal hacking, dumpster diving, ATM skimming, or perhaps when you hand it over to pay at a store or restaurant. Technically, account takeover is the most prevalent form of identity theft, though I’ve always viewed it as simple credit card fraud.

Federal laws limit cardholder liability to $50 in the case of credit card fraud, as long as the cardholder disputes the charge within 60 days. Debit card fraud victims must notify the bank within two days in order to be protected by this $50 limit. After that, the maximum liability jumps to $500. And if a victim doesn’t discover or report the fraud until after 60 days have passed, the liability could be the entire card balance, for a debit or credit card. Once your debit card is compromised, you might not find out until a check bounces or the card is declined. And once you do recover the funds, the thief can just start all over again, unless you cancel the account altogether.

1. Protecting yourself from account takeover is relatively easy. Simply pay attention to your statements every month and refute unauthorized charges immediately. I check my charges online once every two weeks. If I’m traveling extensively, especially out of the country, I let the credit card company know ahead of time, so they won’t shut down my card while I’m on the road.

2. Protecting yourself from new account fraud requires more effort. You can attempt to protect your own identity, by getting yourself a credit freeze, or setting up your own fraud alerts. There are pros and cons to each.

3. Invest in Intelius Identity Protect. Because when all else fails you’ll have someone watching your back.

Includes:

·         Triple Bureau Credit monitoring – monitors changes in your credit profiles from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion-includes email alerts of any suspicious changes
·         Social Security Number and Public Record Monitoring – monitors the internet and public sources for fraudulent social security number, aliases, addresses, and phone numbers
·         Junk Mail Reduction – stop identity thieves from using personal information from your mailbox, trash or even phone calls by eliminating junk mail, credit card offers and telemarketing calls
·         Neighborhood Watch – includes a sex offender report, list of neighbors and a neighbor report on each of your neighbors
·          Identity Theft Specialists  – if in the unlikely event you become a victim of identity theft our Identity Theft experts will work with you to restore your identity and good name
·         Credit Report Dispute – if you find errors on your credit report we will help you resolve them quickly
·         Protection Insurance and Specialists -Identity Protect has you covered with up to $25,000 in Identity Theft Recovery Insurance and access to Personal Identity Theft Resolution Specialists.
·         Triple Bureau Credit monitoring – monitors changes in your credit profiles from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion-includes email alerts of any suspicious changes
·         Social Security Number and Public Record Monitoring – monitors the internet and public sources for fraudulent social security number, aliases, addresses, and phone numbers
·         Junk Mail Reduction – stop identity thieves from using personal information from your mailbox, trash or even phone calls by eliminating junk mail, credit card offers and telemarketing calls
·         Neighborhood Watch – includes a sex offender report, list of neighbors and a neighbor report on each of your neighbors
·          Identity Theft Specialists  – if in the unlikely event you become a victim of identity theft our Identity Theft experts will work with you to restore your identity and good name
·         Credit Report Dispute – if you find errors on your credit report we will help you resolve them quickly
·         Protection Insurance and Specialists -Identity Protect has you covered with up to $25,000 in Identity Theft Recovery Insurance and access to Personal Identity Theft Resolution Specialists.

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Speaker discussing credit card and debit card fraud on CNBC

Identity Theft Expert; Fake IDs are as easy as 1,2,3

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert

Do an online search for “fake ids” and you’ll be amazed to discover how easy it can be to obtain an ID allowing you to pose as someone else. Or how easy it can be for someone else to obtain an ID that will allow him or her to pose as you. Some websites peddle poor quality cards, others offer excellent quality, and many websites are simply scams.

The fact is, our existing identification systems are insufficiently secure, and our identifying documents are easily copied. Anyone with a computer, scanner and printer can recreate an ID. Outdated systems exasperate the problem by making it too easy to obtain a real ID at the DMV, with either legitimate or falsified information.

Another glitch is the potential for individuals to completely alter their appearances. Men with facial hair can wreak havoc on the current system. This is sometimes done as a prank. In other cases, the individual is attempting to subvert the system to maintain a degree of anonymity. New technologies, such as facial recognition, should eventually resolve some of these problems, but they are still years away from being fully implemented.

In Indianapolis, Indiana, a man was able to obtain six different IDs. He accomplished this by visiting various different registries throughout the state and using borrowed names and stolen information. He obtained job applicant data from a failed body shop business he had owned. He used the false identities to open checking accounts at multiple banks and write fraudulent checks to himself.  He was caught while applying for his seventh ID, thanks to facial recognition software. But it is disturbing to know that he was able to acquire six different identities, all stolen from real people, without detection. It was a bank employee who eventually noticed that he had two different bank accounts under two different names. If the man hadn’t been so greedy, he would have gotten away with it.

In Indianapolis and other registries the daily photos are compared to millions of others already on file. The system constantly scans the data and presents cases that might match, requiring further investigation by registry employees.

Some of the requirements of improving facial recognition include not smiling for your picture or smile as long as you keep your lips together. Other requirements meant to aid the facial recognition software include keeping your head upright (not tilted), not wearing eyeglasses in the photo, not wearing head coverings, and keeping your hair from obscuring your forehead, eyebrows, eyes, or ears.

The fact is, identity theft is a big problem due to a systematic lack of effective identification and is going to continue to be a problem until further notice. In the meantime it is up to you to protect yourself. The best defense from new account fraud is identity theft protection.

1. Get a credit freeze. Go online now and search “credit freeze” or “security freeze” and go to consumersunion.org and follow the steps for the state you live in. This is an absolutely necessary tool to secure your credit. In most cases it prevents new accounts from being opened in your name.

2. Invest in Intelius Identity Protect. While not all forms of identity theft can be prevented, you can effectively manage your personal identifying information by knowing what’s buzzing out there in regards to YOU.
Includes;

Personal Identity Profile – Find out if you’re at risk for identity theft with a detailed report of your identity information, including a current credit report, address history, aliases, and more.

24/7 Identity Monitoring and Alerts – Prevent identity theft with automatic monitoring that scans billions of public records daily and alerts you to suspicious activity.

Identity Recovery Assistance – Let professionals help you recover your identity if you ever become a victim of identity theft.

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Speaker discussing identity theft

Insider Identity Theft Poses Major Threats

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert

A Boston woman has been indicted for allegedly stealing at least 34 identities, which she was able to access from her workplace, a medical cost-management firm.

“This was an extensive scheme in which the defendant used her access to the victims’ personal identifying information as a means to steal their identities, obtain credit cards in their names without their knowledge, and then use those credit cards to make purchases for her own personal gain,” said the local District Attorney. “The defendant had access to a large database of health care professionals that contained their personal information.”

State police learned of the fraud when a physician discovered that a credit card had been set up in her name and sent to a P.O. Box in Lowell, Massachusetts. Further investigation by postal inspectors revealed that other cards had also been sent to this P.O. Box. If convicted, she could face up to 75 years in state prison for 15 counts of grand larceny, 100 years for 20 counts of credit card fraud, 55 years for 22 counts of identity theft, and 20 years in for being a “common and notorious thief.”

As much as 70% of all identity theft is committed by someone with inside access to organizations such as corporations, banks or government agencies, or simply someone who has an existing relationship with the victim. People with access to sensitive personal data are most likely to commit identity theft. For many, it’s just too easy not to.

An identity thief begins by acquiring a target’s personal identifying information: name, Social Security number, birth date and address, in that order. If the thief has regular access to a database, he can simply copy and paste the information into an online credit application, or hand write the information on a paper credit card application.

Many credit applications request current and previous addresses. So the thief fills out the victim’s current address as “previous” and plugs in a new address, usually a P.O. Box or the thief’s own address, where the new credit card will be sent. I’m amazed that a lender or credit card company can be careless enough to send a new credit card to a relatively anonymous P.O. Box. The lender just checks the victim’s credit and, since everything matches, no red flags pop up. The card is issued and the fun begins.

Once the thief receives the new card, he or she activates it from a throwaway cell phone. The next step is to either use the card to withdraw as much cash as possible from an ATM, or max it out with charges and then resell the stolen goods through classified ads or online auctions. If the thief is suffering from a drug addiction, it can be impossible to stop this cycle, because stealing identities goes hand in hand with addictive behavior. It’s like gambling. Thieves get a high or a rush when they feel they’re beating the system.

In the case of the Boston woman mentioned above, most people’s first response would be a determination that her employer should have done more to protect the data. There are numerous technologies that monitor, manage, control and restrict who has access to sensitive information. Today, these technologies are being deployed more often than ever before, due to various regulatory issues. However, regardless of what technologies are deployed, all you need to open a file cabinet is a key, if the cabinet is even locked in the first place. So how do you protect yourself when someone has full access to all your information?

1. Get a credit freeze. Go online now and search “credit freeze” or “security freeze” and go to consumersunion.org and follow the steps for the state you live in. This is an absolutely necessary tool to secure your credit. In most cases it prevents new accounts from being opened in your name.
2. Invest in Intelius Identity Protect. While not all forms of identity theft can be prevented, you can effectively manage your personal identifying information by knowing what’s buzzing out there in regards to YOU.

Includes;
Personal Identity Profile – Find out if you’re at risk for identity theft with a detailed report of your identity information, including a current credit report, address history, aliases, and more.

24/7 Identity Monitoring and Alerts – Prevent identity theft with automatic monitoring that scans billions of public records daily and alerts you to suspicious activity.

Identity Recovery Assistance – Let professionals help you recover your identity if you ever become a victim of identity theft.

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Speaker discussing identity theft

Requests For Social Security Numbers Leads to Identity Theft

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert

A patient at a Washington state medical clinic was asked for his Social Security number numerous times. Many of us have endured this familiar process. Considering the recent buzz about identity theft, this patient became concerned about releasing his own sensitive personal data, and requested that the facility remove his Social Security number from their records. The clinic refused, the patient put up a stink, and was ultimately ejected from the facility. The clinic considered his request unreasonable, and a violation of their rules and regulations. So, who’s right and who’s wrong in this scenario?

One Saturday afternoon, years ago, my spouse and I went to a major chain that rents videos. Without naming them, let’s just say they rent some block buster movies. The account was under my wife’s name, but she didn’t have her card with her that day. Upon checkout, the pimply faced 17-year-old clerk said, “No problem,” and asked for her Social Security number, which appeared on the screen in front of him. I freaked out and was ejected from the store. So, who’s right and who’s wrong?

In both cases, the customer is wrong. That may not be the answer you were expecting. I was wrong and the patient was wrong.

In general, routine information is collected for all hospital patients, including the patient’s name, address, date of birth, Social Security number, gender and other specific information that helps them verify the individual’s identity, as well as insurance enrollment and coverage data. And due to federally mandated laws like HIPAA, they are careful to maintain confidentiality of all patient information in their systems.

Corporations such as banks, credit card companies, automobile dealers, retailers and even video rental stores who grant credit in any form are going to ask for your name, address, date of birth, Social Security number and other specific information that helps them verify your identity and do a quick credit check to determine their risk level in granting you credit.

The Social Security Administration says, “Show your card to your employer when you start a job so your records are correct. Provide your Social Security number to your financial institution(s) for tax reporting purposes. Keep your card and any other document that shows your Social Security number on it in a safe place. DO NOT routinely carry your card or other documents that display your number.” But beyond that they have no advice and frankly, no authority.

Over the past fifty years, the Social Security number has become our de facto national ID. While originally developed and required for Social Security benefits, “functionality creep” occurred. Functionality creep occurs when an item, process, or procedure designed for a specific purpose ends up serving another purpose, which it was never intended to perform.

Here we are decades later, and the Social Security number is the key to the kingdom. Anyone who accesses your number can impersonate you in a hospital or bank. So what do you do when asked for your Social Security number? Many people are refusing to give it out and quickly discovering that this creates a number of hurdles they have to overcome in order to obtain services. Most are often denied that service, and from what I gather, there is nothing illegal about any entity refusing service. Most organizations stipulate access to this data in their “Terms of Service” that you must sign in order to do business with them. They acquire this data in order to protect themselves. By making a concerted effort to verify the identities of their customers, they establish a degree of accountability. Otherwise, anyone could pose as anyone else without consequence.

So where does this leave us? I have previously discussed “Identity Proofing,” and how flawed our identification systems are, and how we might be able to tighten up the system. But we have a long way to go before we are all securely and effectively identified. So, in the meantime, we have to play with the cards we are dealt in order to participate in society and partake in the various services it offers. So, for the time being, you’re going to have to continue giving up your Social Security number.

I give up mine often. I don’t like it, but I do things to protect myself, or at least reduce my vulnerability:

How to protect yourself;

  • You can refuse to give your Social Security number out. This may lead to a denial of service or a request that you, the customer, jump through a series of inconvenient hoops in order to be granted services. When faced with either option, most people throw their arms in the air and give out their Social Security number.
  • You can invest in identity theft protection.
  • You can attempt to protect your own identity, by getting yourself a credit freeze, or setting up your own fraud alerts. You can use Google news alerts to sweep the net and take precautions to prevent social media identity theft.
  • Protect your PC. Regardless of what others do with your Social Security number, you still have to protect the data you have immediate control over. Make sure to invest in Internet security software.

Robert Siciliano, identity theft speaker, discusses the ubiquitous use of Social Security numbers.

What have you done in the past when asked for your SSN? Did you refuse? What happened?