San Diego, CA. For the second year
in a row, Identity Theft tops the list of consumer
complaints to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) according
to its annual report, detailing consumer complaints about
identity theft, and listing the top 10 fraud complaint
categories reported by consumers. The fallout for victims
ranges from arrest for financial fraud - among other
things, to having your driver's license revoked, to being
sued, your being denied credit, insurance, a job or place
to live. Worse, it can take up to seven, maybe ten years,
just to set your records straight cautions the nonprofit
Institute of Consumer Financial Education (ICFE), a
nonprofit consumer oriented group based in San Diego, CA.
Identity theft and consumer fraud are at the top of the
list, accounting for 43 percent of the complaints lodged
in the FTC's Consumer Sentinel database. The number of
fraud complaints jumped from 220,000 in 2001 to 380,000 in
2002, and the dollar loss consumers attributed to the
fraud they reported grew from $160 million in 2001 to $343
million in 2002.
Identity theft happens when an opportunity arises. Thieves
are not very particular to one's age either, if there is a
credit/debit card number to be had. An alarming twist is
parents who are stealing the identity of their underage
children for a variety of reasons. Identity theft,
including, but not limited to, your Social Security (SS)
number, driver's license, bank accounts, PIN numbers,
credit/debit card numbers is a relatively quick and easy
crime, which often goes unnoticed for months, sometimes up
to a year or longer.
It helps to understand prevention better by understanding
how Identity Theft is committed. It is simply done by
co-opting a name, Social Security number, credit card
number, or some other piece of personal information of
another individual for the thief's own use. In short,
identity theft occurs when someone appropriates personal
information without the knowledge of the owner to commit
fraud and theft in a variety of ways.
Once identity thieves fake an identity, they:
1) Open new credit card accounts, using
another's name, date of birth, and Social Security number.
When they use the credit card and don't pay the bills, the
delinquent accounts are reported on credit reports.
2) Call credit card issuer(s) and, pretending to be the
owner, change the mailing address on credit card accounts.
Then, the impostor begins to run up charges on the
3) Establish cellular phone service.
4) Open a bank account write bad checks on that account.
5) Have utilities, cable TV, Internet connections and
6) File bankruptcy to avoid debts, evictions and
Identity Theft can happen so easily and quickly. You may
receive a phone call or an email with bogus promises to
get you to reveal your personal information. Whether your
information has been has been lost or stolen, or if it has
found in your home, purse or wallet, or your information
was gotten through your work, or by someone
shoulder-surfing at an ATM, or listening to your phone
calls or by dumpster diving, stealing your mail and
fraudulently obtaining your credit report, you can bet,
usually within hours, bad things begin to happen.
Thieves may order expensive monthly cell phone service,
apply for other credit cards, get credit lines approved
and receive a PIN number from DMV to change your driving
record information online, and more, unless you make a few
very important telephone calls that will help limit the
damage. Because all the bills are being sent to the new
address, victims may not immediately realize there's a
When Identity Theft happens, the victims will suffer from
ruined credit. They will also be unable to open a checking
or savings account, unable to obtain utilities, may be
arrested or have their driver's license revoked, they may
be denied credit, a job, insurance and a place to live,
and may have their wages garnished.
Frequently, the way some people learn their identity has
been stolen is from their credit reports, when they see
new accounts listed they did not open. Without the
monitoring of credit reports, a couple of times a-year,
consumers may learn of identity theft only when they are
adversely contacted by creditors to make payments on
unauthorized debts authorize or they are rejected for a
Steps to take to help protect yourself against Identity
1) Order credit reports at least twice
a-year. This is critical for active credit users.
2) Do not leave personal papers or mail lying around your
residence or office.
3) Do not to leave mail to picked up by their postal
delivery person in their mailboxes.
4) Have passwords on all of your accounts - avoid the easy
5) Purchase a crosscut paper shredder for all financial
6) Clean out wallets and purses and remove anything with a
Social Security number on it.
Photocopy the contents of your wallet.
7) Make a list of all bank account numbers, charge/debit
cards, stock trading, etc. then add the issuer's toll free
phone numbers to the list and keep in a safe place.
8) Keep mail private in a locking mailbox or a PO Box.
Avoid leaving mail lying around or pile up while you are
away. Have new checks delivered to your bank.
9) Use phones where you cannot be heard. Check for
shoulder surfers and don't use cell phones for giving out
personal information or ordering on a charge card.
Regularly re- view statements and bills for unauthorized
10) When using credit/debit cards and bank accounts, do
not have your middle initial listed on the cards or
checks, however, DO include it as part of your official
signature. Hide your cards from view, total all receipts,
no blank spaces, keep a copy of the receipts, and review
each statement, whether from the bank or a charge card,
for accuracy and unauthorized use. Never sign a blank
check or charge voucher.
Identity Theft may affect some or all of the following:
IRS, DMV, Passport, SSA, USPS, credit/debit cards, bank
accounts, insurance, utilities, the Internet and
bankruptcy. It happens to you, here are the steps to
take, according to the U.S. Dept. of Justice.
1) File a police report immediately and
insist they make a written report.
2) Notify all of your creditors by phone, follow-up with a
3) Close all credit/debit accounts, insisting that they
are reported as 'closed at the consumer's request.'
4) Have your bank and creditors contact you personally
before opening up any new accounts or make any changes and
requests for increases in credit lines, etc.
5) Stop payment on checks that may be affected.
6) Get new ATM cards and new PINs.
7) Contact the three major credit reporting agencies (CRAs)
(Equifax: 1-800-525-6285, Experian: 1-888-397-3742 and
Trans Union: 1-800-680-7289). Provide as much information
as possible, and ask them to log the identity theft. Place
a victim's statement in your credit file. Ask the three
CRAs they have a Fraud Alert system. If they do, the alert
means a company checking on the credit will be alerted the
information was stolen and they should make contact by
phone to authorize any new credit. Request a copy of the
credit report from each CRA, a free service for victims of
identity theft and fraud.
8) Report fraudulent use of a SS number to national fraud
hotline at 1-800-269-0271,
between 10 A.M. and 4 P. M. (Eastern time).
9) Notify the utilities to watch out for anyone ordering
new service in the name of the victim(s).
10) Notify the US Post Office.
11) Notify the Department of Motor Vehicles.
It is important also to keep careful records of everyone
spoken with about the theft, noting their names, also the
dates and times, their affiliation and what topics were
discussed along with the outcome of those conversations.
For more information about protecting against identity
theft, visit the U. S. Government's Web site on ID fraud:
http://www.consumer.gov/idtheft and the National
Fraud Information Center at
To help with the monitoring of credit files, the ICFE is
making available free 'credit file request' forms to
consumers. Other helpful information on how credit files
are created and maintained is also included. Now, if you
are unemployed, on welfare, or have been denied credit ,
or had your identity stolen, your credit report is free,
otherwise will cost $8 each, unless you live in a state
which mandates a lower cost,
The free 'credit file request' forms have spaces for all
the initial information needed by credit reporting
agencies to locate your individual credit files. They also
include the names, addresses and telephone numbers of the
major credit reporting agencies operating in the United
States. To obtain the free 'credit file request' forms and
other credit file information send a 60 cent stamped,
self-addressed envelope to: ICFE Credit File Request
Forms, PO Box 34070 San Diego CA 92163-4070.
If you have been the victim of Identity Theft or if you
have discovered mistakes in your credit files, the ICFE
also publishes a "Do-It-Yourself Credit File Correction
Guide,' still available for only $10. Included are
step-by-step instructions, answers to the most often asked
questions, consumer credit rights, sample letters to use
when communicating with the various credit reporting
agencies about credit file questions and difficulties and
Send $10 (+ $2 postage) to: ICFE Credit File Guide U.S. PO
Box 34070, San Diego, CA 92163. Visa/MasterCard orders
please call 619-239-1401. Learn more about the ICFE and
the "Do-It-Yourself Credit File Correction Guide" by
visiting the ICFE's web site at:
About the ICFE:
The Institute of Consumer Financial Education (ICFE) was founded in 1982 by the late Loren Dunton (creator of the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation). The ICFE is dedicated to helping consumers of all ages to improve their spending, increase savings and use credit more wisely.
The ICFE is an award winning, nonprofit, consumer education organization that has helped millions of people through its education programs and Resources. It publishes the Do-It-Yourself Credit File correction Guide, which is updated annually. The ICFE has distributed over one million Credit/Debit Card Warning Labels and Credit/Debit Card Sleeves world wide.
The ICFE became an official partner with the Department of Defense/Financial Readiness Campaign in June of 2004.The ICFE was an active partner in the California Student Debt Resource Awareness Project (CASDRAP) which resulted in a new web site: (studentdebthelp.org). CASDRAP disbanded in 2010, shortly after the web site project was completed. In 2011 the ICFE assumed the single sponsorship of the (studentdebthelp.org) web site and is now responsible for its content and operation.
The ICFE is also an on-line help for consumers who spend too much. ICFE's spending help was featured in PARADE Magazine in the Intelligence Report section. The money helps and tips are from the ICFE's Money Instruction Book, our course in personal finance.
Visit the ICFE's other web sites at: www.financial-education-icfe.org and studentdebthelp.org. Both sites helps consumers and students with mending spending, learning about the proper use of credit, budget and expense guidelines, how to set up and implement a spending-plan and also how to access financial education courses and how to teach children about money. Other ICFE services include: Ask Mr. G, a free eNews, and an online resource center for students, parents and educators, plus financial education learning tools and a book store.
About the ICFE:
The Institute of Consumer Financial Education (ICFE), founded in 1982 by the
late Loren Dunton (creator of the 'certified financial planner' (CFP)
designation) and it is dedicated to helping consumers of all ages to improve
their spending, increase savings and use credit more wisely. The ICFE trains and
certifies Personal Finance Instructors for its own curriculum. It also trains
and certifies Credit Report Reviewers and Identity Theft Prevention Specialists.
The ICFE is an award winning, nonprofit, consumer education organization that
has helped millions of people through its education programs and Resources. It
publishes the Do-It-Yourself Credit File correction Guide, now in its 16th
printing and has distributed over one million 'Credit/Debit Card Warning Labels'
and 'Credit/Debit Card Sleeves' world wide.
The ICFE became an official partner with the Department of Defense/Financial
Readiness Campaign in June of 2004.
The ICFE is also a partner in the national Jump$tart Coalition for Financial
Literacy and the California Jump$tart chapter. The ICFE staff is also active
with San Diego Saves, an offshoot of America Saves, and the California Student
Debt Resource Awareness Project (CASDRAP) (studentdebthelp.org).
The ICFE's on-line help for consumers who spend too much was featured in PARADE
Magazine in the Intelligence Report section. The money helps and tips are from
'The Money Instruction Book,' a course in personal finance, positioned to become
among the premier programs in the new bankruptcy and debtor education
The ICFE Web site at:
www.financial-education-icfe.org helps consumers with mending spending, learning about
the proper use of credit, budget and expense guidelines, how to set up and
implement a spending-plan and also how to access financial education courses and
videos and how to teach children about money. Other ICFE services include a free
eNews, and an online resource center of financial education learning
tools, including videos, books, software and personal finance courses.