Identity theft is the most prevalent cause of consumer complaints all over the Country with Texas Identity theft taking 4th place in State rank Per 100k Population. Georgia achieved the #1 spot; however, no matter where you are you can assure your state is not immune to the growing risk of thieves looking to make your life miserable. Below is an identity theft guide and resources if you believe you are a victim of identity theft.
8 warning signs of Identity theft
There are several things to watch out for when it comes to signs that you may be a victim of identity theft, we will go over them in the section below.
- Unauthorized credit card or debit card charges
- New Credit Card inquiry or account listed on your credit report that you did not apply for.
- Denial letters for credit cards you did not apply for
- Calls from debt collectors trying to collect on a debt you know nothing about
- Income tax refund stolen
- Unauthorized checks being used
- Cell phone and utilities being opened in your name
- You receive medical bills for services you did not receive
How to report identity theft in Texas
Reporting identity theft in Texas is no different than in any other state. You can visit the State attorney general website for Texas to file a complaint. You can also go see the most common scams going on in the state by clicking on this link: Common Scams in Texas. Another Website you must visit is http://www.identitytheft.gov. The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) has an online tool that will assist you in completing the forms that you will need to provide to law enforcement agencies.
As you go through the online too, it will ask you “what statement best describes your situation” it will give you the option to choose from, and from there it will ask “what did the identity thief use your information for?” You of course can choose how much information you give them. Here is what you will want to provide to the FTC.
Your Full Legal Name
Date of Birth
Social Security Number
Driver’s License Number
Current address and how long you have lived there.
Phone number and Email Address.
You will want to do this step prior to filing a police report. You can also contact the FTC at 1-877-438-4338, TTY 866-653-4261.
How to file a police report for identity theft in Texas
A little background, in 1999, the Texas State legislature tasked the Offices in Texas with the responsibility to create a unique criminal file Called the “The Stolen Identity File.” When the file is created the Sheriff’s department will report the information to a statewide file managed by DPS (Department of Public Safety). Pretty neat.
Once you have filed your report with the FTC, you can then go to your local police or sheriff’s department to file a criminal complaint. Make sure to document the name and phone numbers of the person you spoke with regarding the incident. Have a breakdown of everything that occurred that alerted you to the fraud, like unauthorized credit or debit card usage, Utility bills opened in your name at another address, misuse of your government-issued IDs, and so forth. As with anything, get a copy of the police report and be sure to follow up with your local police department.
How to report identity theft to Creditors and Merchants
If you were a victim of credit card or debit card theft, contact the creditor or your banking institution right away and dispute the charges. They may ask you for the police report you filed. You may also want to request replacement cards with NEW account numbers. As a precaution, keep an eye on all the credit cards that you have that were not affected, and to be safe you may want to cancel them and get replacement cards.
*Please note that you will want to continue to monitor your credit card statements for Pending or new fraudulent charges.
How to report identity theft to your bank
If you were a victim of banking fraud in Texas, you will want to notify your bank and ask them to flag your account and monitor for any suspicious activity. You should also request a new debit card and try not to use any personal information for the pin. If your checking account number was compromised you will want to close out the account altogether and have them open a new one. In the banking environment of today, they are usually pretty good at identifying suspicious activity before it happens, but sometimes stuff falls through the cracks, unfortunately.
How do I file identity theft with credit bureaus?
When you are a victim of Identity theft it is always wise to notify the credit bureaus and ask them to immediately issue a fraud alert on your credit reports, especially when the fraud that has occurred is from a new credit card being opened in your name. You can request they send you a free credit report. Typically, you only need to contact 1 of the credit bureaus and they will notify the other two. They will initially put a 90-day alert on but you can call them back and get it extended.
Once the fraud alert is active, a potential credit provider must verify your identity prior to extending you credit. Below are the numbers you can call for all three credit bureaus
You may also want to consider enrolling in a credit monitoring service to keep an eye on your credit report.
If the Identity theft is significant or was due to a business breach or Government breach then you will want to entertain a security freeze. The credit reporting agency cannot (unless under very thin exceptions) release your information to anyone. To obtain security free you will need to notify each credit bureau. *Please note that if you try to apply for credit while the freeze is active, you will get declined. You will need to unfreeze your credit report at least 1 hour prior to applying.
Below are links to the freeze options for each credit bureau
How to report identity theft to social security
If your situation has gone far beyond an unauthorized credit or debit charge and you fear someone is using your social security number to open up credit cards, car loans, mortgage loans, and so forth. Contact the social security administration at 800-269-0271 or visit their website at www.socialsecurity.gov/org. You can also get a replacement social security card if yours was lost or stolen.
How to report identity theft to DMV
You can contact the Texas Department of Motor vehicles or your State’s DMV for help in determining what actions to take for your situation. You will need to provide them proof of identity as well as any documentation related to the identity theft, such as the police report, copies of fraudulent checks, and so on. You will then be asked to fill out a Forgery affidavit and it will need to be notarized.
How to report Identity theft to U.S Passport Agency
You can notify the U.S. Passport Agency if you fear that someone may try to apply for a fraudulent passport in your name. You can contact them at 202-647-0518 or visit their website at www.travel.state.gov/passport.
Common types of identity theft
There are several types of identity theft scams going on today. Below are the most common.
Financial Identity theft: Financial identity theft involves a thief using your debit or credit card to make a purchase for goods or services and in some cases, drain your account of your hard-earned money.
Child Identity Theft: It is not uncommon and we have seen it a few times when either a family member or stranger has used a child’s information to obtain credit, open utilities, and even rent a place! Of course, the child will not suspect a thing yet until they are old enough to get credit. I will say that scenario is easy to rectify by doing some credit disputes and proving to the creditor that this victim wasn’t even of age at the time those accounts were opened.
Medical Identity theft: Yes, you read that right. Some people will use your personal information to submit fraudulent Medicare claims and, in some cases, to obtain medical services under your name with your stolen information.
Tax Identity theft: This theft involves someone filing a tax return using your personal information and obtaining a refund. If this has happened to you, Contact the IRS and file a fraud claim. You will receive a pin number in order to file your taxes in the future.
Estate Identity theft: This involves a person or persons using a deceased person’s information to steal money and open accounts in their names. To me, this is the most disgusting type of theft to have happened to a family after the loss of a loved one. Be sure that when a loved one has passed that you notify the credit bureaus to place a notice on the deceased person’s credit report.
How does Identity theft happen?
Identity thieves use various methods to steal your information. They employ both high-tech and low-tech strategies and as our lives evolve around technology more each day whether it be for work or leisure our identity thieves are evolving as well. Below are some types of Identity theft strategies and how to combat them.
Cyberattacks Identity thieves will email (phishing), call (vishing), or text (smishing) you pretending to be either a banking institution or in some cases the IRS. They will ask you for your personal information either to update records. They are getting so good at it that even many websites are being replicated to look and feel just like another website you think is trustworthy.
Hacking – Ransomware, I think by now we have all heard about ransomware, this is a type of malware used to coerce money from victims by locking access to the computer and threatening to expose your personal information.
Raiding your Trash – Yup, they will go to that extreme and rummage through trash looking for bills, documents with personal information, and receipts. Anything that will give them the information they need to wreak havoc on your life.
How to best protect your identity
I wish I could say there is a sure way to protect your Identity, but I cannot because the techniques are just getting more and more advanced and with consumers practically living online, it just makes that quest a tad harder. With that being said, you can also make it harder for them to steal your identity, and below I will talk about how best to protect your Identity.
- Never carry around your social security card or birth certificate in your wallet. Keep them at home in a lock box.
- Do not use your personal information for your pin numbers, like birthdate or last 4 of your social.
- Set alerts on your credit cards to text you if a purchase goes over a certain amount, you can set that amount to as low or as high as you want, I would set it low, just to be safe. Most credit card providers will also allow you to disallow overseas transactions, not a bad idea to disallow. You can also change that if you need to.
- Keep your computer up to date, and get an anti-virus/anti-malware product that will scan your computer regularly. Make sure you have secured WIFI with a strong password. Get in the habit of writing your passwords down, changing them every 6 months, and storing them in a place you will remember. *Keep in mind storing passwords, creating wallets, and using Biometric authenticators are great, but if the place where they are stored is breached, they will have access to everything. Be careful and be wise.
- Do not give your personal information over the phone, through the mail, or the internet unless you have initiated that contact or have business with them and you know who you are dealing with.
- Shred all your information and I mean anything they can use to steal your identity before you trash it.
- Avoid using public WIFI, but if you do never log into financial websites or websites that store your personal information.
How to fix your credit after identity theft
If you were a victim of identity theft immediately order and review our credit reports. Get a fraud alert issued if you see addresses or name variations, or if you come across any accounts that were opened in your name that you are not familiar with, and contact that creditor immediately and provide them with the police report and the FTC reports you filed if they request them. You should also set up a monitoring service that will send you alerts when changes occur to your credit report. There are several paid and free websites that offer to monitor. You just need to decide what best fits your needs.
If you feel overwhelmed you can always hire a professional credit repair company to help you repair your credit.
Additional Information for Texas Residents
In the state of Texas, a victim of identity theft may have the option to seek a court order declaring they are a victim of identity theft. If they are granted the request for this type of order, they then can submit it to any private company and to any government entity to assist in correcting any records that contain inaccurate and false information stemming from the Identity theft. You can read about it more at Texas law