AN IDENTITY THEFT WORKBOOK

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1 AN IDENTITY THEFT WORKBOOK WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE A VICTIM OF IDENTITY THEFT PRODUCED BY THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY S OFFICE, 18TH JUDICIAL DISTRICT OF COLORADO (Serving ARAPAHOE, DOUGLAS, ELBERT AND LINCOLN COUNTIES) 6450 S. REVERE PKWY CENTENNIAL, COLORADO,

2 HOW TO USE THIS WORKBOOK Identity Theft can be as simple as someone fraudulently using your credit card or writing a check on your bank account; or it can be as complex as someone using your personal information (account numbers, driver s license number, Social Security Number, etc.) to: open charge accounts under your name, take out loans under your name, buy property or vehicles under your name, be employed under your Social Security Number, and much more. If you believe you have been a victim of Identity Theft, you must determine how your stolen information is being used against you. You may have realized that you have a problem when you found fraudulent charges on your credit card or bank statement, or it may have been the call you received from a collection agency informing you that you have a past due balance on an account that you did not open. Regardless of how you discovered the problem, do not assume that you have a problem with only one type of account. It is important that you check all of your financial account to insure that you have identified the extent of your problem. For that reason, we recommend that: Everyone should complete STEPS 1-6. You should complete STEPS 7-11 if you are having problems with a Colorado Department of Motor Vehicle Record, a federal tax return, your mail, your phone service or your passport. You should complete STEP 12 even though it is entirely optional. Your information will then be included in the national database on identity theft. This information can be very helpful to law enforcement. You should complete STEP 13 if you are getting calls from a collection agency. Get a determination of factual innocence by the courts. Page 19 provides information on what to do if your stolen identity is used in the commission of a crime. If you need any assistance with completing these steps, please contact the Consumer Protection Hotline, For another copy of this workbook, go to our website, 2

3 STEP ONE: Contact Your Bank(s) Contact your bank(s) at once and close your accounts (checking and/or savings). Financial Institution Account # Date Closed Contact Review your bank statement(s) and identify any transactions that you did not make. Report unauthorized transactions to your bank at once. Put stop payment orders on all outstanding checks that might have been written without your knowledge or permission. Check # Date of Ck. Payee Bank Notified Contact Cancel your debit or cash card and have a new one issued. Create a new PIN number for the card. DO NOT use the old PIN number. Card Cancelled on: Contact Person: New Card Received on: New PIN: STEP TWO: Contact Your Credit Card Issuer(s) Close all existing credit card accounts. Ask that those cancelled accounts be processed as "account closed at customer's request" to avoid any negative reporting to the credit bureaus. (Note: Sometimes accounts do not get closed even though you request it. We recommend that you call back within a week of closing an account and check the status). Credit Card Issuer Account # Date Closed Contact Open up new accounts protected with a secret password or personal identification number ( PIN ). Do not use the same passwords or PINs as on the original accounts. Do not use common numbers (like birth dates, part of your Social Security number), or commonly chosen words (such as a child s, spouse s, or pet s name) as passwords or PINs. Credit Card Issuer New Account # Password/PIN Contact 3

4 STEP THREE: Contact the Credit Reporting Bureaus Ask the credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your file. You must then be contacted directly before any new credit is taken out in your name. A fraud report filed with one bureau will be shared with the other bureaus, so you only need to contact one bureau. See pages 18 & 19 for an explanation of your rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. There are two types of fraud alerts: an initial alert and an extended alert. An initial alert stays on your credit report for at least 90 days. You may ask that an initial fraud alert be placed on your credit report if you suspect you have been, or are about to be, a victim of identity theft. When you place an initial alert on your credit report, you are entitled to one (1) free copy of your credit report from each of the three nationwide credit bureaus. An extended alert stays on your credit report for seven years. You can have an extended fraud alert placed on your credit report if you have been a victim of identity theft and you provide the credit bureau with an identity theft report (usually a police report). With an extended alert, you are entitled to two (2) free copies of your credit report within twelve (12) months from each of the three nationwide credit bureaus. In addition, the credit bureaus will remove your name from marketing lists for pre-screened credit offers for five (5) years. You can contact the fraud units at each of the credit bureaus as follows: Equifax P.O. Box Atlanta, GA (800) Experian P.O. Box 9554 Allen, TX (888) TransUnion P.O. Box 6790 Fullerton, CA (800) Bureau Called Number Called Date Called Contact 4

5 Request copies of your credit reports and review them for any accounts in your name that you did not open. Date Ordered Received On Equifax Experian TransUnion If unauthorized accounts are found, notify the company that established the account immediately. Company/Account Number Phone Date Called Contact Order a follow-up set of credit reports three months after you place a fraud alert on your accounts. These reports will help you determine if any new unauthorized activity has developed since you first discovered someone was using your identity. Report any new problems to the credit bureaus immediately. Date Ordered Received On Equifax Experian TransUnion STEP FOUR: Notify Law Enforcement File a report with your local law enforcement agency. Obtaining that report will help you in dealing with your banks, creditors, and the major credit reporting bureaus. Police Dept. Contacted Number Called Date of Call Contact Person Police Report Number: File a copy of your police report immediately with the credit reporting bureaus listed in Step Three. Colorado law requires the credit bureaus to then block any new, negative credit information resulting from the theft of your identity. One to two weeks after you mail the report, call the credit bureau to confirm the report arrived and has been added to your account. 5

6 Bureau Date Report Mailed Confirming Call Contact Notes: STEP FIVE: Contact All of Your Creditors Notify them by phone that your identity has been stolen. Creditor Phone Date Called Contact Follow-up the phone call by filing a copy of your law enforcement report or the FTC's ID Theft Affidavit with each creditor (some may require that you use their own form of affidavit). A copy of the FTC s ID Theft Affidavit may be found at the following website address: Many creditors and the major credit reporting bureaus will accept the ID Theft Affidavit. Keep copies of all correspondence and documents exchanged with each creditor. Creditor Address/Fax Date Sent 6

7 STEP SIX: Notify the Social Security Administration If you suspect that someone is using your Social Security number to obtain credit or employment, contact the Social Security Administration's fraud hotline at (TTY: ) Hotline called on: Person spoken to: Notes: To check the accuracy of your work history, order a copy of your Personal Earnings and Benefit Estimate Statement (PEBES) and check it for accuracy. You can obtain a PEBES application at your local Social Security office or at PEBES ordered on: Received on: STEP SEVEN: Notify Colorado Department of Motor Vehicles If you suspect that someone is using your Social Security number or personal information to obtain a Colorado driver s license or for a motor vehicle record, title and registration, contact the Colorado Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Investigations Unit at or Hotline called on: Person spoken to: Notes: 7

8 STEP EIGHT: Notify the Internal Revenue Service If you suspect that someone is using your Social Security number (SSN) and personal identification to fraudulently file a tax return, contact the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) at (TTD: ). You may be unaware that this has happened until you file your return or discover that two returns have been filed using the same SSN. Be alert to possible identity theft if you receive an IRS notice or letter that states that: More than one tax return for you was filed. You have a balance due, refund offset or have had collection actions taken against you for a year you did not file a tax return, or IRS records indicate you received wages from an employer unknown to you. If you receive a notice from the IRS, respond immediately. If you believe someone may have used your SSN fraudulently, please notify the IRS immediately by responding to the name and number printed on the notice/letter or contact the IRS to determine if the letter is a legitimate IRS letter by calling the number above. You will have to complete the IRS Identity Theft Affidavit, Form This can be found on the IRS website, For victims of identity theft who have previously been in contact with the IRS and have not achieved a resolution, please contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unite at If you become the victim of identity theft outside of the tax system or believe you may be at risk due to a lost/stolen purse or wallet, questionable credit card activity or credit report, etc. you are encouraged to contact the IRS at the Identity Protection Specialized Unit at so they can take steps to further secure your account. Hotline called on: Person spoken to: Notes: 8

9 STEP NINE: Notify the Postal Authorities If you suspect that your mail has been stolen or diverted with a false change-of-address request, contact the U.S. Postal Inspection Service at You can file a complaint or obtain the address and telephone number of your local postal inspector by visiting the United States Postal Inspection Service web site at: Notes: STEP TEN: Notify the Phone Company If the identity theft involves the misuse of a long-distance telephone account, cellular telephone, or other telephone service, contact your telephone or wireless company and immediately close all existing accounts. If replacement accounts require passwords or PINs to access, do not use the same passwords or PINs as on the original accounts. Do not use common numbers (like birth dates, part of your Social Security number), or commonly chosen words (such as a child s, spouse s, or pet s name) as passwords or PINs. Company Phone Date Called Contact STEP ELEVEN: Notify the State Department If your passport has been stolen, notify the passport office in writing to be on guard for anyone ordering a new passport in your name. Contact them at U.S. Department of State, Passport Services -- Consular Lost/Stolen Passport Section, th Street, N.W., Suite 500, Washington, D.C , telephone number You can obtain additional information from their web site: Notes: 9

10 STEP TWELVE: File A Report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) You can file an identity theft complaint with the Federal Trade Commission: on-line at by calling the Identity Theft Hotline, by writing to: The Identity Theft Clearinghouse Federal Trade Commission 600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW Washington, DC Notes: STEP THIRTEEN: Coping with Collection Calls Read the article on the Colorado Fair Debt Collection Practices Act beginning on page 20 in the Appendix to understand your rights. If you are contacted by a collection agency about a debt for which you are not responsible, immediately notify them that you did not create the debt and that you are a victim of identity theft. Follow-up with the collection agency and creditor in writing and include a copy of your law enforcement report or ID Theft Affidavit. Send your letter, and copy of the report or affidavit, return receipt requested, or with some other process that gives you proof that the collection agency received your letter. Maintain a record of your collection agency contacts by using the Collection Agency Contact Record form (see next page). If the collection agency continues to contact you, file a complaint with the Colorado Collection Agency Board, 1525 Sherman Street, 7th Floor, Denver, CO 80203, telephone number Additional information is available at ww.ago.state.co.us/cab.htm. 10

11 COLLECTION AGENCY CONTACT RECORD Collection Agency: Date of Contact: Person Calling: Phone # of Caller: Agency is calling about Notification letter and documents sent by on to:. ADDITIONAL NOTES: 11

12 APPENDIX FAIR CREDIT REPORTING ACT Q: How do I order my free credit report? A: The three nationwide consumer credit reporting companies have set up one central website, toll-free telephone number, and mailing address through which you can order your free annual credit report. To order your report, go to or call You can complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box , Atlanta, GA if you prefer. Do not contact the three nationwide consumer reporting companies individually. They are only providing free annual credit reports through this service. Additional information is available through the Federal Trade Commission at You are entitled to receive one free credit report every 12 months from each of the nationwide consumer credit reporting companies through the Central Source (Annual Credit Report Request Service). It is entirely your choice whether you order all three credit reports at the same time or order one now and others later. The advantage of ordering all three at the same time is that you can compare them. (However, you will not be eligible for another free credit report from the Central Source for 12 months.) On the other hand, the advantage of ordering one now and others later (for example, one credit report every four months) is that you can keep track of any changes or new information that may appear on your credit report. Remember, you are entitled to receive one free credit report through the Central Source every 12 months from each of the nationwide consumer credit reporting companies Equifax, Experian and TransUnion so if you order from only one company today you can still order from the other two companies at a later date. Q: What information do I have to provide to get my free report? A: You need to provide your name, address, Social Security number, and date of birth. If you have moved in the last two years, you need to provide your previous address. To maintain the security of your file, each nationwide consumer reporting company may ask you for some information that only you would know, like the amount of your monthly mortgage payment. Each company may ask you for different information because the information each has in your file may come from different sources. is the only authorized source for your free annual credit report from the three nationwide consumer reporting companies. and the nationwide consumer reporting companies will not send you an asking for your personal information. If you get an or see a pop-up ad claiming it s from or any of the three nationwide consumer reporting companies, do not reply or click on any link in the message it s probably a scam. Forward any that claims to be from or any of three consumer reporting companies to the FTC s database of deceptive spam at or any of three consumer reporting companies also will not call you to ask for your personal information. 12

13 Q: Are there any other situations where I might be eligible for a free report? A: Under federal law, you re entitled to a free report if a company takes adverse action against you, such as denying your application for credit, insurance, or employment, and you ask for your report within 60 days of receiving notice of the action. The notice will give you the name, address, and phone number of the consumer reporting company. You re also entitled to one free report a year if you re unemployed and plan to look for a job within 60 days; if you re on welfare; or if your report is inaccurate because of fraud, including identity theft. Otherwise, a consumer reporting company may charge you up to $9 for another copy of your report within a 12-month period. To buy a copy of your report, contact: Equifax, , or on-line at: Experian, 888-EXPERIAN ( ), or on-line at: Trans Union, , or on-line at: Q: What if I find errors either inaccuracies or incomplete information in my credit report? A: Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, both the consumer reporting company and the information provider (that is, the person, company, or organization that provides information about you to a consumer reporting company) are responsible for correcting inaccurate or incomplete information in your report. To take advantage of all your rights under this law, contact the consumer reporting company and the information provider. Tell the consumer reporting company, in writing, what information you think is inaccurate. Consumer reporting companies must investigate the items in question usually within 30 days unless they consider your dispute frivolous. They also must forward all the relevant data you provide about the inaccuracy to the organization that provided the information. After the information provider receives notice of a dispute from the consumer reporting company, it must investigate, review the relevant information, and report the results back to the consumer reporting company. If the information provider finds the disputed information is inaccurate, it must notify all three nationwide consumer reporting companies so they can correct the information in your file. When the investigation is complete, the consumer reporting company must give you the written results and a free copy of your report if the dispute results in a change. (This free report does not count as your annual free report under the FACT Act.) If an item is changed or deleted, the consumer reporting company cannot put the disputed information back in your file unless the information provider verifies that it is accurate and complete. The consumer reporting company also must send you written notice that includes the name, address, and phone number of the information provider. Tell the creditor or other information provider in writing that you dispute an item. Many providers specify an address for disputes. If the provider reports the item to a consumer reporting 13

14 company, it must include a notice of your dispute. And if you are correct that is, if the information is found to be inaccurate the information provider may not report it again. Q: What can I do if the consumer reporting company or information provider won t correct the information I dispute? A: If an investigation doesn t resolve your dispute with the consumer reporting company, you can ask that a statement of the dispute be included in your file and in future reports. You also can ask the consumer reporting company to provide your statement to anyone who received a copy of your report in the recent past. You can expect to pay a fee for this service. If you tell the information provider that you dispute an item, a notice of your dispute must be included any time the information provider reports the item to a consumer reporting company. Q: How long can a consumer reporting company report negative information? A: A consumer reporting company can report most accurate negative information for seven years and bankruptcy information for 10 years. There is no time limit on reporting information about criminal convictions; information reported in response to your application for a job that pays more than $75,000 a year; and information reported because you ve applied for more than $150,000 worth of credit or life insurance. Information about a lawsuit or an unpaid judgment against you can be reported for seven years or until the statute of limitations runs out, whichever is longer. THE COLORADO FAIR DEBT COLLECTION PRACTICES ACT THE LAW The Colorado Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (CFDCPA) protects consumers from unfair and abusive debt collection practices. It applies to debt collectors, collection agencies, and companies that buy and collect debts in default. The CFDCPA does not apply to creditors who collect their own debts. FIRST NOTICE Within 5 days after you are first contacted, the collection agency must send you a written notice stating the amount of money due and the name of the creditor who referred the debt to the collection agency. YOUR RIGHTS You may dispute the debt (or any part of it) within 30 days after receiving the first notice. Your dispute must be in writing. The collection agency must then stop collection efforts until it mails you proof of the debt (a bill or court judgment) and the name of the original creditor if requested (if different from the creditor listed on the collection notice). 14

15 You may inform the collection agency to stop calling you at work or at home, limit the hours during which they call, or to contact you only in writing only. Your request must be in writing. The collection agency must comply with your request but may sue you if it believes the debt is valid. If you are sued, you have the right to appear and defend yourself in court. You may refuse to pay the debt or inform the collection agency to cease communication. Your request must be in writing. The collection agency may send you one final notice of its intentions. It must then comply with your request but may sue you if it believes the debt is valid. If you are sued, you have the right to appear and defend yourself in court. You may ask the collection agency for a copy of your payment history. The request must be in writing. You are entitled to one copy a year free of charge. The collection agency may charge up to $5.00 for additional copies. COMMUNICATION A debt collector may not: Contact you by postcard. Use an envelope that shows that the sender is a collection agency or that the contents concern a debt. Call you before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m. your time or at any other time or place which the debt collector knows is inconvenient for you. (If 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. is inconvenient, notify the collection agency in writing and state when you can be called). Discuss the debt with those who do not owe it without your consent or a court order. The debt collector cannot state he is a debt collector or affiliated with a collection agency unless specifically asked. (A spouse or co-signor is generally responsible for the debt and may be contacted). Neighbors and relatives may only be contacted to obtain your address and phone number. Contact you if you are represented by an attorney. (You should provide the attorney s name and telephone number to the collection agency). PROHIBITED COLLECTION PRACTICES A debt collector may not: Use obscene or profane language. Make repeated telephone calls to annoy or harass, such as calling and speaking to you 3 times in 1 day. Telephone you without stating his name within 60 seconds. The debt collector may use an alias (false name) if it is listed with the Colorado Collection Agency Board. Threaten violence against you, your property, or reputation. Publish or post the debt through any list other than a credit bureau report. State that he is an attorney if he is not licensed to practice law. Claim he works for a government agency or has governmental authority, if he does not. Accuse you of committing a crime or threaten you with arrest. 15

16 Misrepresent that papers are legal documents when they are not or that papers are not legal documents when in fact they are. Misrepresent the amount of the debt or collect an amount greater than the amount you legally owe. Threaten to take actions that are illegal. Threaten to take or sell your property, garnish your wages, or attach your bank accounts unless that action is legal and the debt collector intends to do it. Report false credit information about you. Make you accept collect calls or pay for telegrams. Deposit a post-dated check before the date on the check. If the check is post-dated by more than 5 days, the debt collector must inform you in writing no less than 3 days or more than 10 days before the date the check will be deposited. (A debt collector may ask you to write a post-dated check - the choice is yours). ACTIONS WHICH ARE NOT PROHIBITED The CFDCPA does not prevent a debt collector from: Contacting you by telephone, letter, telegram or in person (unless you have requested in writing that the collection agency not contact you or you are represented by an attorney). Refusing partial payment or suing you unless you have a payment agreement with the collection agency and are complying with it. Adding interest to the debt if permitted by law or contract. Adding information about the debt to your credit report. However, if you dispute the debt, it must be reported as disputed. Adding the following charges for a bounced check (check not paid by your bank upon presentment due to insufficient funds or a closed account): (1) a return check charge up to $20 if posted at the creditor s business or in your contract; and (2) collection costs of $20 or 20% of the check amount - whichever is greater; and (3) the amount of the check. If you receive a notice to pay an NSF check and do not pay all charges within 15 days from the date the notice was mailed or served, the collection agency can generally sue you for 3 times the amount of the check for a minimum of $100 plus court costs and reasonable attorney fees. For example, if you write a check for $4.50 and it bounces, you may owe $ If you do not respond to the 15 day notice, the collection agency might sue you and get a court judgment for $300 ($100 for the check amount, $150 for attorney fees, and $50 for court costs). HELPFUL HINTS Get all payment agreements in writing signed by you and the collection agency. Pay as agreed. Keep copies of all letters and notices you send to a collection agency. Send important communications by certified mail or other method to verify the agency received the letter. Keep a record of the dates and times you are contacted by the collection agency, including the name of the debt collector. Get a receipt for all cash or money-order payments you make. 16

17 Answer legal summons and appear at all court hearings. This office cannot stop court action. The laws on collection of student loans, child support, and taxes may limit some of the rights described in this brochure. The CFDCPA does not protect you from paying legitimate bills you owe. You are legally responsible for the payment of these debts. COMPLAINTS Send complaints about debt collectors and collection agencies to the Colorado Collection Agency Board, 1525 Sherman Street, 7th Floor, Denver, CO 80203, (303) Send complaints about the collection practices of attorneys to the Colorado Supreme Court Disciplinary Counsel, 600 Seventeenth Street, #200-S, Denver, CO 80202, (303) Send complaints about the collection practices of creditors collecting their own debts to the Uniform Consumer Credit Code, 1525 Sherman Street, 7th Floor, Denver, CO (303) Send complaints about credit reports to the Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Response Center, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, #130, Washington, DC 20580, Phone: ; Fax: (202) , Web site is You may sue a collection agency yourself for any violation of the CFDCPA. Contact your local small claims court or an attorney for information. For more information on collection laws, visit our web site at Click on the Collection Agency Board heading. OTHER PERTINENT STATUTES Reporting a Crime A victim of identity theft may file a complaint with either the law enforcement agency where the crime occurred OR with the law enforcement agency where the victim lives. Such agency shall take a police report of the matter, provide the complainant with a copy of that report, and begin an investigation of the facts. (Colorado Statute ) Civil Remedies for Identity Theft This statute provides the right for a person whose personal identifying information was used in the commission of a crime to file a civil action. Damages may be awarded for damage to reputation or credit rating, punitive damages and attorney s fees. (Colorado Statute ) 17

18 ADDITIONAL RESOURCES Federal Trade Commission ID-Theft (toll free) or Colorado ID Theft Colorado Attorney General s Office Website: IRS Taxpayer Advocates Office for help if you are having trouble completing a tax return due to Identity Theft. Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council Having trouble getting help to resolve bank related ID Theft problems, go to to determine which agency has jurisdiction over your financial institution. Annual Credit Report Request Service To request a FREE copy of your Credit Report from all three credit reporting agencies, use one of the following: (You will need to give your Social Security Number). Website: Phone: Fraud Reporting Assistance or Fraud Inquiries District Attorney s Office (Colorado) In Arapahoe, Douglas, Lincoln and Elbert Counties: In Denver City and County: In Adams/Broomfield Counties: In Jefferson/Gilpin Counties:

19 STOLEN IDENTITY USED IN THE COMMISSION OF A CRIME If your identity has been used by another in the commission of a crime, you may have a criminal record and an arrest warrant may have been issued in your name. Colorado law provides a means for an identity theft victim to clear his/her record of wrongful criminal charges. The process requires the victim to petition the court for a finding of Factual Innocence. If you are the victim of identity theft and your identity has been used in the commission of a crime, contact the District Attorney s Office in the jurisdiction where charges have been filed and speak to the prosecutor who has been assigned to the case. To learn more about this process and to obtain copies of the judicial forms needed to petition the court, go to the following Web site: Once on the courts Web page, choose Download A Court Form on the left side of the screen. Then choose Criminal; then Identity Theft and it will give you instructions on what you need to do. For assistance in the 18th Judicial District of Colorado, which covers Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert and Lincoln Counties, contact the Consumer Protection Line at for assistance with the Factual Innocence paperwork. 19

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