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Identity theft occurs when someone steals your personal information, like your Social Security number or bank account information, to commit fraud or other crimes. Identity theft can take many forms and can leave your finances in disarray.
If you are a victim or believe you may be a victim:
Call the fraud departments of the three major credit reporting agencies listed below.
Request that your credit report be flagged with a fraud alert and add to your report a statement that you are a victim of fraud and that all creditors should contact you at a phone number you provide to verify all future applications. Each of the major credit bureaus may have different procedures, so ask each one how long the fraud alert will remain on your report and the circumstances under which that period may be extended. You should also request a written copy of your report to review and verify that each piece of credit information is valid.
Placing a fraud alert may not necessarily prevent the fraud from resuming. Some creditors may not see these alerts if they do not obtain your full consumer report, but rather rely on a credit score or another automated credit application system.
The law allows Massachusetts consumers to place a security freeze on their credit reports. A security freeze prohibits a credit reporting agency from releasing any information from a consumers' credit report without written authorization. Note: placing a security freeze on your credit report may delay, interfere with, or prevent the timely approval of any requests you make for new loans, credit, mortgages, employment, housing or other services.
If you have been a victim of identity theft, and you provide the credit reporting agency with a valid police report, it cannot charge you to place, lift or remove a security freeze. In all other cases, a credit reporting agency may charge up to $5 each to place, lift or remove a security freeze.
Filing a police report is a first step. But you should also be sure to report the identity theft to other law enforcement/governmental agencies.
Secret Service: The Financial Crimes Division is charged with investigating crimes associated with financial institutions. Typically, it will track complaints in an effort to discover crime rings, but will not investigate individual complaints. You can contact the Massachusetts Regional Office at 10 Causeway Street, Boston, MA 02222-1080, 617-565-5640.
U.S. Postal Inspector : Postal Inspectors may have jurisdiction over your case if the identity thief has used the mail to commit credit or bank fraud.
If you can determine where the fraudulent credit cards or checks were sent, contact the local Postmaster for that address and to file a complaint. Be sure to request that change of address forms submitted on your behalf not be accepted.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation: The FBI also may investigate financial crimes. Typically, the FBI focuses on fraud rings engaged in conspiracies to defraud financial institutions. You can contact the Massachusetts Regional Office at Suite 600, One Center Plaza Boston, MA, 02108 (617) 742-5533.
Social Security Administration: To report the fraudulent use of your Social Security number, you should contact the Office of the Inspector General's Fraud Hotline at 1-800-269-0271 and follow up in writing. Ask if you are eligible to change your Social Security number. The Social Security Administration, however, cannot help individuals fix personal records at credit bureaus, credit card companies, or banks.
Massachusetts’ identity theft law requires businesses and others that own or license personal information of residents of Massachusetts to notify the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation and the Office of Attorney General when they know or have reason to know of a breach of security. The law also requires that the breached entity notify consumers of any breach of their personal information that creates a substantial risk of identity theft or fraud as soon as practicable and without unreasonable delay after a breach occurs, except when a law enforcement agency determines that notice may impede a criminal investigation.
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