Listen to these consumers . . .
Someone used my Social Security number to get credit in my name. This has caused a lot of problems. I have been turned down for jobs, credit, and refinancing offers. This is stressful and embarrassing. I want to open my own business, but it may be impossible with this unresolved problem hanging over my head.
From a consumer complaint to the FTC, May 18, 1999
Someone is using my name and Social Security number to open credit card accounts. All the accounts are in collections. I had no idea this was happening until I applied for a mortgage. Because these “bad” accounts showed up on my credit report, I didn’t get the mortgage.
From a consumer complaint to the FTC, July 13, 1999
Help! Someone is using my Social Security number to get a job.
From a consumer complaint to the FTC, September 20, 1999
My elderly parents are victims of credit fraud. We don’t know what to do. Someone applied for credit cards in their name and charged nearly $20,000. Two of the card companies have cleared my parents’s name, but the third has turned the account over to a collection agency. The agency doesn’t believe Mom and Dad didn’t authorize the account. What can we do to stop the debt collector?
From a consumer complaint to the FTC, October 7, 1999
In the course of a busy day, you may write a check at the grocery store, charge tickets to a ball game, rent a car, mail your tax returns, call home on your cell phone, order new checks or apply for a credit card. Chances are you don’t give these everyday transactions a second thought. But someone else may.
The 1990’s spawned a new variety of crooks called identity thieves. Their stock in trade are your everyday transactions. Each transaction requires you to share personal information: your bank and credit card account numbers; your income; your Social Security number (SSN); and your name, address and phone numbers. An identity thief co-opts some piece of your personal information and appropriates it without your knowledge to commit fraud or theft. An all-too-common example is when an identity thief uses your personal information to open a credit card account in your name.
Can you completely prevent identity theft from occurring? Probably not, especially if someone is determined to commit the crime. But you can minimize your risk by managing your personal information wisely, cautiously and with heightened sensitivity.
The Congress of the United States asked the Federal Trade Commission to provide information to consumers about identity theft and to take complaints from those whose identities have been stolen. If you’ve been a victim of identity theft, you can call the FTC’s Identity Theft Hotline toll-free at 1-877-IDTHEFT (438-4338). The FTC puts your information into a secure consumer fraud database and may, in appropriate instances, share it with other law enforcement agencies and private entities, including any companies about which you may complain.
The FTC, working in conjunction with other government agencies, has produced this booklet to help you guard against and recover from identity theft.