Identity Theft - Financial Regulation
Identity theft is the illegal process of stealing an individual’s personal identifiable information such as a social security number and incurring debt in the victim’s name. Identity theft is reported as the fastest growing financial crime in the United States. Although not limited to any specific industry, identity theft crimes in the financial arena continue to receive great attention. Identity theft is the illegal process of stealing an individual's personal information and incurring debt in the victim's name. The victim's social security number is used to open checking accounts, credit cards, or obtain loans. In many cases, the individual is unaware that he or she has been victimized until months or years after the crime.
If you feel you have been a victim of identity theft you may contact the Maryland Office of the Attorney General, Division of Consumer Protection at 410-528-8662 or visit the Division's website. However, if assistance is needed in resolving errors on your credit report as a result of identity theft, you may file a complaint with this office. You may also visit the Federal Trade Commission’s Identity Theft page if you would like to report being the victim of identity theft and start a plan to recover your identity.
If you are a victim of identity theft:
- Request copies of your credit report from Experian, Equifax and TransUnion, the larger credit reporting agencies and dispute any inaccuracies.
- Contact the creditors to close the unauthorized accounts, change passwords or restrict access to the accounts.
- Place fraud alerts and a victim’s statement on each of your credit files maintained with the major credit reporting agencies.
- Request that the credit reporting agencies remove any inquiries referencing the fraudulent accounts.
- File a report with your local police department.
- File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
- File a complaint with the Commissioner of Financial Regulation.
- You may place either a fraud alert or a security freeze on your consumer credit report by contacting each consumer credit reporting agency (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) and requesting the appropriate action.
Some tips on protecting yourself against identity theft include:
- DO NOT put your social security number (SSN) on public documents or use it as a personal identification number (PIN).
- ALWAYS inquire about an alternative method of identification and proof of a written policy of a private business that requires a SSN as a means of identification.
- Review and verify your Social Security Personal Earnings & Benefit Estimate Statement every year. For more information on this statement, contact the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213.
- Request and verify the accuracy of your credit report every year. Review credit card and checking account statements monthly.
- Carry only the minimal amount of personal information and the fewest number of credit cards that you need in addition to limiting the number of credit cards used for internet purchases.
- Shred ALL personal documents or remove identifiable information before discarding ATM receipts and unused credit card offers. Many localities in Maryland offer free community shred events throughout the year or have a free shredding location available during the weekday.
- Be aware of telephone solicitors and callers. Never give out your SSN or other personal information to unknown callers.
You may place either a fraud alert or a security freeze on your consumer credit report by contacting each consumer credit reporting agency and requesting the appropriate action. A fraud alert notifies potential creditors that you might be an identity theft victim and that the consumer credit reporting agency will be contacting you directly for identity and new credit verification before allowing new credit to be opened in your name. The Office of the Maryland Attorney General has additional information on how to freeze your credit report.