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Identity Theft

Last Modified: 10/08/2020

There are many ways a criminal can steal your identity, but they all boil down to the same idea: When someone uses your personal or financial information to harm you or defraud an institution, they have committed identity theft. This information could be as public as your address or phone number, or as private as your social security number or bank account details.

While some identity thieves still use older methods like stealing mail or scam phone calls, modern technology has given criminals new opportunities to access the personal data of others. The convenience of the internet has consumers putting their personal information in many different places, some less secure than others, and businesses with millions of customers can suffer security breaches which lead to stolen data. 

One of the most reported forms of identity theft each year is tax-related identity theft, when someone uses your personal information — such as your name or social security number — to defraud the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for their own gain. Identity thieves will often use your data to claim a tax refund in your name, but they can also claim one of your dependents or even get employment using your information.

As criminals find new ways to steal private information, the federal government and individual states create new laws to better protect consumers and prosecute identity thieves. Modern technology makes it possible for you to stay up to date on your credit history, tax records, and private account information to quickly find and report any evidence of fraud. There are many ways that you can reduce the chances of becoming a victim of identity theft, and multiple steps you can take to help you recover financially if you do.

Below are a series of subtopics created to walk you through the process of preventing identity theft from happening to you and recovering from it if it does. We have also listed several subtopics that deal specifically with tax-related identity theft.

Read on for more information, and if you believe you are the victim of any form of identity theft, contact CLSMF for legal advice.

WHAT ARE YOUR RIGHTS?

This act established federal guidelines for identity theft sentencing, penalties and restitution.

The Identity Theft Assumption and Deterrence Act introduced measures such as:

  • Making identity theft a federal crime;
  • Giving authority to the U.S. Secret Service to investigate identity theft cases;
  • Classifying equipment used for identity theft as contraband;
  • Allowing for penalties including fines and prison sentences of up to 30 years, depending on the degree of theft and related criminal behavior; and
  • Giving government agencies the authority to collect and analyze data about identity theft.

You can view the act in full on the Federal Trade Commission’s website here: https://www.ftc.gov/node/119459

This act set standards for how your information must be handled by consumer reporting agencies, giving you the right to access up-to-date details while prioritizing your privacy and economic safety.

Some of the rights and protections the Fair Credit Reporting Act provides that relate to identity theft include:

  • If anyone uses a credit report or similar consumer report against you (such as denying an application for employment) they must tell you and provide information about the agency that gave them the report;
  • You have the right to know all of the information about you in the files of consumer reporting agencies, and can request that information (your “file disclosure”) at any time. If you are the victim of identity theft, this request should be free of charge;
  • You have the right to request your credit score. Depending on the loan or transaction involved, this may require you to pay a fee;
  • You may dispute false or inaccurate information in your file and the consumer reporting agency is required to investigate it;
  • Only people with a “valid need” may be granted access to your information from a consumer reporting agency, generally those looking to approve an application you have filed with them (housing, loans, etc.). Most employers cannot receive a consumer report about you without your own written permission;
  • You may enact a “security freeze” which temporarily stops a consumer reporting agency from granting anyone access to your information without your express authorization;
  • You may enact a 1-year “fraud alert” which forces businesses to verify your identity before extending credit — identity theft victims are eligible for a 7-year fraud alert; and
  • You have the right to seek damages against any consumer reporting agency that violates these rules.

For more on the Fair Credit Reporting Act and the rights it provides, read the Federal Trade Commission’s summary here: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/pdf-0096-fair-credit-reporting-act.pdf

This act gives you certain rights concerning charges on credit cards or other “open-end” credit accounts (such as charge cards for individual stores or businesses). 

While the Fair Credit Billing Act covers many common billing errors (like multiple charges for the same item or simple math errors), it also gives you rights which can help protect you from identity theft, such as:

  • The right to dispute unauthorized charges, charges on goods or services you never received, bills sent to an address that isn’t yours, and any charge that you request clarification on;
  • The right to withhold payment for any charges under investigation;
  • Protection from having your credit rating affected, being reported as delinquent, having your debt accelerated, accruing late fees, or having your account closed while the charges are being investigated;
  • The right to written notice when you open an account;
  • The right to receive a statement for each billing period in which you are charged more than $1; and
  • The right to receive a prompt credit or refund for any billing errors found in your favor.

For more on the Fair Credit Billing Act and the rights it provides, read the Federal Trade Commission’s summary here: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0219-disputing-credit-card-charges.

This Florida law outlines the process by which you can prevent a consumer reporting agency from releasing their credit scores or other information without your express permission.

You can read the statute in full here: http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0500-0599/0501/Sections/0501.005.html

This act requires businesses and government entities to follow guidelines to protect the personal and financial information of Florida residents and report data breaches to those affected.

A common cause of identity theft, “data breaches” are situations where the confidential information a business or government entity has is stolen and people’s personal or financial details end up in the wrong hands. This usually involves the security breach of an organization’s computer records and could give criminals access to credit card numbers, home addresses, social security numbers, and more.

The Information Protection Act protects protects consumers by:

  • Requiring notice of a data breach to be provided to consumers within 30 days;
  • Requiring notice to be provided to the Office of the Attorney General for breaches affecting more than 500 people;
  • Adds health insurance, medical information, financial information and online account information (such as security questions and answers), email addresses, and passwords to the list of protected personal information;
  • Requires businesses and the state government to take reasonable measures to protect date; and
  • Outlines further regulations for businesses and the Florida government to handle data breaches.

You can see more about how this act affects consumers by reading the Florida Attorney General’s Office summary here: http://myfloridalegal.com/pages.nsf/Main/53D4216591361BCD85257F77004BE16C

While this act was not created specifically to address identity theft, it does afford victims of identity theft the same rights as victims of other crimes when it comes to criminal proceedings.

If someone is being prosecuted for identity theft crimes that you were the victim of, the Justice for All Act gives you the following rights:

  • The right to reasonable protections from the accused;
  • The rights to timely notice about any public court or parole proceedings and the release or escape of the accused;
  • The right to be included in any public court proceeding unless the judge decides that your testimony would change significantly if you heard other testimony;
  • The right to be heard at any public proceeding in the district court that involves release, plea, sentencing, or parole;
  • The right to confer with the attorney for the government in the case;
  • The right to full and timely restitution; and
  • The right to be treated with fairness and respect for your dignity and privacy.

During the identity theft recovery process you will be interacting with the 3 nationwide credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. You have the right to freeze your accounts, place fraud alerts on them, and dispute inaccurate information in them.

A security freeze, or “credit freeze,” makes it impossible for most people to access your credit reports, making it more difficult for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name. Your reports will only be released to existing creditors or debtors and government agencies acting under a court order, subpoena, or search warrant. The freeze remains in place until you temporarily or permanently lift it. It won’t affect your credit or keep you from obtaining a job, renting an apartment, or getting insurance. This service is free of charge.

A fraud alert allows creditors to get a copy of your credit report only after they have taken steps to verify your identity. This makes it more difficult for someone to open an account under your name, but it does not protect existing accounts. A standard fraud alert lasts 1 year, identity theft victims can get a 7-year extended fraud alert, and those deployed in the military can request an active duty fraud alert which can be extended for the length of their deployment. This service is free of charge.

You may dispute fraudulent or inaccurate information on your credit history. The credit bureau must investigate this matter, and if the information is found to be fraudulent they must amend your credit history. They must also let any relevant creditor know that you have been the victim of identity theft. The removal of fraudulent information from your credit report is called “blocking.”

The Keeping IDs Safe (K.I.D.S) Act gives parents the right to place a security freeze on the credit report of a child under 16 years old. Credit bureaus cannot charge more than $10 for placing or removing this freeze, and it is free to victims of identity theft.

For additional information about credit reporting and credit bureaus, visit this page.

Once they have received a valid FTC Identity Theft Report, creditors and debt collectors are not allowed to report fraudulent accounts to credit bureaus.

You have the right to copies of all documents related to your identity theft, fraudulent accounts, and fraudulent charges. You may also request that these be forwarded to a specific law enforcement agency.

You have the right to receive written information about any debt that a debt collector is seeking payment for. Debt collectors are not allowed to contact you for fraudulent charges after you ask them to stop.

Visit our web page to learn more about debt collection practices and harassment.

You are not responsible for any debt related to an account that someone fraudulently opened up under your name.

Federal law states that the maximum amount you can be required to pay for fraudulent credit card charges is $50.

You are not responsible for any fraudulent charges on your credit card If they are made after you report to the credit card company that it has been lost or stolen. 

It is important to report a missing ATM or debit card immediately. Your liability for unauthorized charges with a lost or stolen ATM or debit card depends on how soon you report the loss or theft to your bank or credit union. You can be held responsible for the following amounts:

  • $0 if you report the card lost/stolen before any charges are made;
  • $50 if you report the card lost/stolen within 2 business days of finding out about it;
  • $500 if you report the card lost/stolen more than 2 business days after you find out about it but less than 60 calendar days after you receive the bank statement that includes the fraudulent charges; and
  • There is no limit to what you are responsible for if you report your card lost/stolen more than 60 days after you receive the bank statement that includes the fraudulent charges.

You are not responsible for charges made using only your debit card number (not the card itself) as long as you report the fraudulent charges within 60 days of receiving the bank statement that includes them.

Report fraudulent or unauthorized checks to your bank or credit union as soon as possible to limit your financial liability.

WHAT DO YOU NEED TO DO TO PREVENT ID THEFT?

One of the best methods to make sure you are not currently a victim of identity theft is to request an up-to-date credit report from each national reporting agency that you can review for accuracy.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act gives you the right to request a credit report from the 3 nationwide credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — for free, once every 12 months.

Be extremely careful when requesting your credit reports. There are many companies which advertise “free credit reports,” but these can often include additional fees or try to pressure you into agreements you do not need to make. Some may require you to sign up for credit monitoring, others will even ask for you to waive your right to a jury trial and agree to arbitration.

There is only one federally authorized source for your free credit reports: AnnualCreditReport.com. It is recommended by the Florida Office of the Attorney General and the Florida Bar that you request your free credit reports through this source alone. You can also reach them by phone at (877) 322-8228 — Be sure to stay on the line until you have requested all 3 reports.

Most minors do not have any credit history, so credit reports can be a good way to find out if your child has been the victim of identity theft. You have the right to find out if each of the 3 credit bureaus has a credit report for your child, and to request any credit reports that exist. You may also request that each bureau performs a manual search of the child’s social security number to find out if the number has been used under a different name — identity thieves will sometimes take personal information from completely different people to make an entirely new fraudulent identity.  Each bureau has their own process for this, so you will need to contact them directly:

 

 

 

With a fraud alert in action, creditors must take steps to verify your identity before requesting credit reports from a consumer reporting agency or extending credit.

Fraud alerts are free of charge and last for 1 year, but the extended Fraud Alert available to victims of identity theft lasts for 7 years.

Fraud alerts can stop those trying to open accounts or get credit in your name, but they do not prevent anyone from affecting already existing accounts.

If you think you may be at increased risk for identity theft for some reason, such as lost information or a data breach, you can place a fraud alert on your consumer reports by contacting one of the 3 nationwide credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). They will be required by law to contact the other two and instruct them to place an alert on your account.

If you are at a higher risk for identity theft as a result of a data breach or other stolen information, close your current bank accounts and open new ones using different passwords and PINs.

Stay alert and review all activity on your accounts for signs of fraud.

Update any automatic payments with your new bank account information.

Store your financial records, Social Security and Medicare cards in a safe, secure place.

Shred paperwork with personal or financial details before throwing it away, such as:

  • Pre-approved credit applications;
  • Credit card receipts;
  • Bills; and
  • Old credit cards or identification cards (if your shredder is designed for them).

Be more secure with your mail:

  • Don’t let mail sit in your mailbox for long, collect it right after it is delivered;
  • Bring your outgoing mail to the post office or place it in a postal collection box;
  • Contact your creditor or service provider if an expected bill hasn’t arrived on time;
  • Don’t put any financial information on the outside of an envelope or on a postcard;
  • Be skeptical of advertisements or solicitations you get that claim you have won or been approved for something and ask for personal information;
  • Be on guard if your house begins to get mail for someone who has never lived at your address; they could be attempting to have future mail from your house forwarded to another address.

Be careful where you dispose of receipts and avoid leaving them at high-risk places such as:

  • Bank machines or ATMs;
  • Bank counters;
  • Public trash receptacles; or
  • Gasoline pumps.

Memorize all important numbers and passwords (social security numbers, PIN numbers, etc.). Do not write them down in anything you keep on your person, especially things which could be stolen or misplaced such as wallets and purses.

If your driver’s license number currently features your social security number you can contact the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles and request assignment of an alternate driver’s license number.

You can remove yourself from pre-approved credit line mailing lists by calling 1-888-5-OPTOUT (1-888-567-8688).

You can remove your name, phone number, and address from marketing lists by contacting the Direct Marketing Association (This removes your information from many, but not all, marketing lists.):

DMAChoice

Data & Marketing Association

P.O. Box 643, Carmel, NY 10512

https://dmachoice.thedma.org

Make sure that no one else can see your PIN number when you enter it on an ATM or card reader.

Only give personal and financial information to those that require it to take an action that you have initiated. Do not give this information to unsolicited callers. Verify that those contacting you actually represent the business or organization they claim to.

Avoid giving personal or financial information on unknown websites, especially ones linked to in spam emails. Just like telephone calls, do not give information to an email solicitor you haven’t initiated contact with and whose identity you have not verified. Be especially suspicious if an email says that it links to a well-known or legitimate company but the web address does not match the address of the company’s official website (such as addresses with obvious typos or from unrelated foreign countries).

Do not download software or apps from pop-up advertising.

When possible, use encryption technology for emailing personal data.

Never give your checking account information over the internet unless it is with your bank’s official website.

Make sure you only conduct financial business and give information under a secure connection (you should see a lock icon next to the address in your browser).

Try to only disclose personal or financial information once you have received a secured authentication key from your provider.

Do not give personal or financial information while using a public computer, such as in a library or at your place of employment.

Use passwords that you can remember but are difficult to guess, including numbers and symbols. Some systems now require you to have a password of a certain security strength, while others may give you a rating on how secure the password you are creating is.

Enable two-factor identification when available. This makes it so that someone can only access an online account by entering a code they receive by text or email, even if they already have your login information.

When possible, do not use your email address as your login ID.

Even if you have been careful, it is always possible for you to become the victim of identity theft. Catching the criminal activity early is crucial to limiting the damage you suffer.

Take any notices you receive of data breaches related to companies you have had any financial dealing with very seriously.

Read bills and statements and keep an eye out for the following:

  • Charges for things you did not buy;
  • Withdrawals you did not make;
  • A change of address that you did not request;
  • Expected bills that have not arrived.

Your child’s personal information may have been compromised if:

  • You receive phone calls or mail about financial matters such as bills, debt collection, or pre-approved credit cards in the child’s name;
  • You receive legal notices such as traffic violation, jury duty, or overdue taxes in the child’s name;
  • You receive medical bills in the child’s name;
  • Your child is denied government benefits because their social security number is listed as already claiming them; or
  • You are unable to claim your child as a dependent on your taxes because their social security number appears on someone else’s form.

Check medical and insurance statements for changes that you did not authorize or expect. Signs you may be the victim of medical identity theft include:

  • Being billed for medical services that never happened;
  • Being contacted about medical debt you should not owe;
  • Seeing medical collection notices you don’t recognize on your credit report;
  • Being told unexpectedly that you have reached the maximum benefits limit of your insurance coverage; and

Having your coverage denied for a medical service because it has already been claimed.

If you believe your personal information appears in a publicly available record, you have the right to request the Clerk or County Recorder to redact/remove your Social Security number, bank account number, credit, debit or charge card number from an image or copy of an Official Record that has been placed on that Clerk’s/County Recorder’s publicly available website, or in a court file.

You can find your local Clerk here: https://www.flclerks.com/default.aspx

File your taxes as early as possible.

If you are using a third party to file your taxes, thoroughly research the company before giving them any personal information.

When filing online, use a secure connection — do not use publicly available internet or wifi hotspots.

When filing paper tax returns, mail them from the post office —do not mail them from your home.

 

Do not give your personal information to anyone claiming to be the IRS over email, phone call, text, or social media. The IRS only contacts taxpayers through U.S. mail.

The IRS will assign a special 6-digit number (the IP PIN) to eligible taxpayers to help prevent identity theft and make sure that your tax return goes only to you and cannot be claimed by someone else. If you live in Florida and filed taxes here last year, you are eligible for an IP PIN.

Victims of identity theft do not have to sign up for an IP PIN, the IRS will mail it to you automatically. You must be a confirmed identity theft victim with the IRS and your case must be resolved before the start of the next filing season. Your IP Pin and instructions will be included in the “CP01A Notice” that you get in the mail, but if you don’t receive this information or lose it somehow, you can retrieve your IP PIN online or call 800-908-4490. For more information read: https://www.irs.gov/identity-theft-fraud-scams/retrieve-your-ip-pin

 

If you are not already the victim of identity theft and want an IP PIN as a precaution, you can get one online using the IRS “Get an IP PIN” tool as part of the IP PIN Opt-In Program. If you have already created an account on IRS.gov for other reasons you can log in with the same username and password. If you do not have an account with IRS.gov you will need to create one to use this tool.

To use your IP PIN, enter it when prompted by your tax-filing software or give it to a (verified and trusted) tax professional filing your return. Do not give this information to anyone else — the IRS will never ask you for this information, so do not share it through email, phone, or text.

The IP PIN is meant to protect your tax information, so if you forget to include it or enter it incorrectly it could cause your electronic filing to be rejected or your paper return to be delayed until your identity can be verified.

You may have no idea you are the victim of tax-related identity theft until you receive a notice from the IRS that does not seem right to you. Be concerned if any of the following situations occur:

  • You are not able to file your tax return online because of a duplicate social security number;
  • You get a letter from the IRS about a tax return you did not file;
  • You get a tax transcript in the mail that you did not request;
  • The IRS sends you a notice that a new account was made in your name;
  • The IRS sends you a notice that your existing account was accessed or disabled but you have not taken that action;
  • The IRS send you a collection notice saying you owe additional taxes or that you owe for a year you did not file, but neither of those things should be true; or
  • The IRS claims that you received wages from an employer you have never worked for.

WHAT DO YOU NEED TO DO TO RECOVER FROM ID THEFT?

Call the fraud department of each company where you have witnessed evidence of fraud and explain that you are a victim of identity theft.

Request that they close or freeze your accounts so no one can add more charges.

Update PIN numbers and passwords.

You may need to contact them again once you have an FTC Identity Theft Report.

Keep detailed records of any phone conversations and request confirmation of any actions in writing.

Contact the fraud departments of any companies you have accounts with (credit cards, utilities, phone services, etc.), even if there is no evidence of fraudulent charges.

Explain that you are the victim of identity theft.

Request that they close the account if you believe it has been compromised. Ask that they place alerts on any account you decide to keep open.

Follow up in writing. You may need to include the Identity Theft Report that you receive from the Federal Trade Commission (See Below) or the company might require you to submit a copy of their own fraud dispute form.

Keep detailed records of any phone conversations and request confirmation of any actions in writing.

You will want to contact the 3 nationwide credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — to freeze your accounts or place a fraud alert and get a free copy of your credit report.

To freeze your accounts, you must contact all 3 credit bureaus individually. You will be asked to provide them with personal information and will be given a PIN or password for future interactions. This freeze remains in place until you request that it be lifted.

To place a fraud alert on your accounts, you only need to contact 1 of the 3 credit bureaus and they are obligated to notify the others.

You can contact the 3 credit bureaus at:

 

 

Getting credit reports from these 3 bureaus will allow you to review them for accounts and transactions that should not be there and could make it easier for you to report the identity theft to the FTC or law enforcement. To get your free credit reports:

Request them online at AnnualCreditReport.com or call 1-877-322-8228. AnnualCreditReport.com is the only federally authorized free credit report provider (If you have already received your free credit report for this year you can pay a fee to get the report immediately.); or

Follow the instructions in the fraud alert confirmation letter you receive from each bureau.

The FTC will give you your Identity Theft Report, which will be necessary for later steps, and create a recovery plan for you.

You can report the identity theft online by filling out this form: https://www.identitytheft.gov/Assistant#

Your answers to the questions in the online form will help the FTC develop your recovery plan.

You have the option to create an account with the FTC on IdentityTheft.gov. Creating an account will enable the FTC to guide you through the recovery process, update your plan, track progress, and pre-fill forms and letters for you. If you choose not to create an account you must print and save your Identity Theft Report once it appears on your screen because it cannot be accessed after you exit the page.

You may also report an identity theft and request your Identity Theft Report over the phone by calling 1-877-438-4338.

Explain to the fraud department at your bank or credit union that you are the victim of identity theft.

Cancel any active debit or credit cards and request new ones. Create new PINs (that you have never used before) for each card. If your credit or debit card was lost or stolen, report this to your bank or credit union as soon as possible — this will help limit your financial responsibility for any fraudulent charges that occur.

If your checks have been stolen or used fraudulently, have your bank or credit union immediately stop all payment. Put stop payments on any outstanding checks you are not sure about.

If an account has been compromised, or you believe that it is in danger of becoming compromised, request that the bank cancel it and create a new account. Create new passwords and PINs (that you have never used before) for this account. Remember to update your account information with any companies you have scheduled auto-payments with.

Contact your local sheriff’s office or police department to file your report. You may do this either in the city or county where the fraud took place or where you reside.

Bring as much documentation with you as possible, including:

  • Your FTC Identity Theft Report;
  • A government issued photo ID;
  • Proof of your address (mortgage statement, rental agreement, or utilities bill);
  • Any other documents that support your claim, such as bills, late notices, debt collection letters, IRS notices, your credit report, etc.

Explain to the police that your identity has been stolen and provide them with your documentation.

Request a copy of the police report — this may be necessary for future steps.

At this point you will need to contact any companies which have not yet closed accounts that were wrongfully made in your name.

Contact the fraud department of each business. Explain your situation and request that they close the account. Ask that they send you a letter confirming that a) the account is not yours, b) you are not legally responsible for it, and c) it has been removed from your credit report. Save this letter and keep written records of all your interactions with each company.

You may be required to send the business a copy of your FTC Identity Theft Report and/or complete a special dispute form (See Links and Resources below for sample forms).

Review your documents and make a list of each company where fraudulent charges occurred, along with each individual charge that was wrongfully made.

Contact the fraud department of each business. Explain your situation and request that they remove those charges. Ask that they send a letter confirming that those charges have been removed. Save this letter and keep written records of all your interactions with each company.

You may be required to send the business a copy of your FTC Identity Theft Report and/or complete a special dispute form (See Links and Resources below for sample forms).

Explain to the agency that issued the fraudulent benefits that you are the victim of identity theft. You may need to contact one of the following agencies:

  • Social Security Administration (Medicare A and B, SSI, SSDI, Retirement, and Survivors benefits): https://www.ssa.gov/

Ask them what steps you need to take to correct the issue. If you stopped receiving benefits because of the identity theft, ask the government agency how to get them reinstated.

Provide any documents that they request to prove your identity has been stolen. You may be asked to provide documents or appear in person to confirm your identity.

Keep detailed records of any phone conversations and request confirmation of any actions in writing.

If someone rented property in your name, ask the landlord who rented it to them what tenant history service they use. Contact this company, request a copy of your tenant history report, and ask what steps must be taken to remove the fraudulent information.

Keep detailed records of any phone conversations and request confirmation of any actions in writing.

The U.S. Trustee Program handles bankruptcy fraud cases. You must contact the U.S. Trustee in the region where the fraudulent bankruptcy was filed. To find the Trustee in your region, head to https://www.justice.gov/ust.

The U.S. Trustee refers bankruptcy fraud cases to the U.S. Attorneys for possible prosecutions. If this happens, it is recommended that you hire your own attorney to represent you because they are more equipped to prove to the court that your bankruptcy was fraudulent.

If you believe your mail has been stolen or tampered with, contact your nearest U.S. Postal Inspection Service district office or call 1-877-876-2455

If you are worried that crimes you did not commit have been falsely attributed to you because of identity theft, you may request a Compromised Identity Review from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The FDLE will use your fingerprints to compare with state criminal records. If there have been crimes charged to your name due to fraud, the FDLE will work with local police to have your record cleared.

For more information visit http://www.fdle.state.fl.us/Criminal-History-Records/Obtaining-Criminal-History-Information.aspx.

Identity theft victims can have their Florida driver’s license or state ID flagged with a fraud alert, even if the license has not been compromised. This is done by contacting the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles in writing and requesting a “Verify ID Flag”: 

If someone has falsely obtained a driver’s license or state ID using your information, fill out the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles’ fraud investigation request form and mail it to the address above. You can find the fillable form here: https://www.flhsmv.gov/pdf/forms/72068.pdf

If your passport has been lost or stolen, or you know it has been used fraudulently, contact the U.S. Department of State: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/after/lost-stolen.html

If you believe someone has used your information to get medical services or prescription drugs, or are being falsely billed for someone else’s medical treatments, contact all service providers where you think your information could have been misused — including hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, laboratories, and health plans - and request copies of your medical records. You will need to fill out a record request form for each provider. This may include a fee.

Federal law grants you the right to know what is in your medical files. If a medical provider refuses to give you copies of your record to protect the identity thief’s privacy rights, contact the person listed in the Notice of Privacy Practices they send you and explain that you are the victim of identity theft and need your file to move forward. If they still refuse to give you a copy of your file within 30 days, contact the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights and explain your situation.

Review your medical records. If you find any errors or fraudulent charges, send a letter to the medical services provider by certified mail and include the following:

  • A copy of your FTC Identity Theft Report;
  • A copy of the medical record that shows the mistake;
  • An explanation of which charges are mistakes and why; and
  • A request that corrections be made.

You should get a response from the provider within 30 days. Request that they notify any other health care providers that may have the same mistake in their files.

Contact your health insurance provider’s fraud department. Send them a copy of your FTC Identity Theft Report and any other records or documents they require to correct the situation.

Keep detailed records of any phone conversations and request confirmation of any actions in writing.

If you receive a notice from the IRS about problems with your tax information or tax return, immediately call the number provided and follow any instructions given.

If the IRS notifies you that your electronic return was rejected because someone else has already filed using your social security number, or if the IRS requests it for other reasons, fill out Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit online, print it, attach it to your return, and mail it according to instructions. You can find the fillable form here: https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f14039.pdf

Even if someone used your personal information to file a tax return, you will still need to complete a tax return for the year. Make sure to follow any IRS instructions, such as completing a paper form or attaching an Identity Theft Affidavit.

If you have tried the previous steps and have not gotten a resolution or are having a difficult time completing the process, call the IRS for specialized assistance at 1-800-908-4490.

If IRS records claim that you received wages from an employer that you never worked for, contact the stated employer in writing and explain that you are the victim of identity theft and do not work for them.

If someone else has filed a tax return using your name of social security number, you can request a copy of that return. Your name and social security number must be listed as either the primary or secondary taxpayer (not a dependent) on the return you are requesting.

The return will be masked or redacted, meaning that only some of the information on the return may be visible to you. This may be done to protect other possible victims, but it will still show you enough information for you to figure out how your personal data was used.

Complete Form 4506-F, Request for a Copy of a Fraudulent Tax Return, print it, and mail it to the IRS:

  • The fillable form is available online here: https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f4506f.pdf
  • If using the United States Postal Service, mail to:
    IRS
    Fresno, CA 93888-0025
  • If using a private delivery service, mail to:
    IRS
    5045 East Butler Avenue
    Fresno, CA 93727
    “Identity Theft – Request for Fraudulent Return”

For more information on requesting a fraudulent return and masked/redacted information, go to: https://www.irs.gov/individuals/instructions-for-requesting-copy-of-fraudulent-returns

If your information was used to file a fraudulent return or negatively affect your tax record there is a good possibility that you are at risk for some of the other consequences of identity theft. You may want to check your credit record, set fraud alerts or security freezes, and report the fraud to the Federal Trade Commission.

For more information on how to move forward as a victim of identity theft, see the previous subtopics on Identity Theft recovery.

If you filed your tax return online and were told that a dependent listed on your return was already claimed on someone else’s or their own, or if you received an IRS Notice CP87A in the mail, your dependent may be the victim of identity theft.

Make sure you entered your dependents information correctly, and that the mistake was not the result of a typo or error.

By law, the IRS is not able to tell you who claimed your dependent on their return. If there is no one you personally know that you believe may have had reason to claim them as a dependent, an identity thief may be using their information to file a return. You can request a copy of the fraudulent tax return only if the victim (your dependent) was listed as the primary or secondary taxpayer on it (See “Recovery, tax-related: Get a copy of the fraudulent return” above). If they were listed as a dependent on the fraudulent return, you won’t be able to get a copy and will need to assert your right to claim them as a dependent.

You can make sure you meet the requirements to claim them as a dependent by answering questions on the IRS “Whom May I Claim As a Dependent” tool here: https://www.irs.gov/help/ita/whom-may-i-claim-as-a-dependent

Fill out a paper tax return claiming your dependent, include all necessary documents to prove your right to claim them, and mail it to the IRS. The IRS recommends that you provide “recordation such as school, medical, daycare, or social service records on official letterhead from a school, medical provider, social service agency, or place of worship that shows names, common address and date,” along with the document listed in Form 886-H-DEP which you may read here: https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f886hdep.pdf

If the IRS needs more documentation to complete its investigation they will send you a CP75A Notice in the mail.

The process to decide who is allowed to claim the dependent usually begins around 2 months after your paper return was submitted. If someone else is claiming the same dependent, you will both get letters in the mail explaining the situation and giving you the option to file an amended return. If neither one of you drops their claim to the dependent, the IRS may audit you to decide who has a right to claim them. This process may take months. The IRS may ask for more documentation to support your claim, and it is important that you respond promptly. After the IRS makes their final decision, they may impose taxes, penalties, or interest on the person who incorrectly claimed the dependent. 

Children can be especially vulnerable to identity theft because of their lack of previous credit history and public information. If your child has been the victim of identity theft you will need to complete many of the same steps listed above on their behalf.

When contacting businesses or agencies about fraudulent accounts made using your child’s name or information:

  • Explain that they are the victim of identity theft;
  • Explain that they are a minor and not legally able to enter into binding contracts;
  • Request that accounts in their name be closed and a written confirmation be sent to you; and
  • Follow up in writing and submit any required documents (FTC Identity Theft Report, birth certificate, etc.).

Most minors do not have any credit history, so credit reports can be a good way to find out if your child has been the victim of identity theft. You have the right to find out if each of the 3 credit bureaus has a credit report for your child, and to request any credit reports that exist. You may also request that each bureau performs a manual search of the child’s social security number to find out if the number has been used under a different name — identity thieves will sometimes take personal information from different people to make an entirely new fraudulent identity.  Each bureau has their own process for this, so you will need to contact them directly:

 

 

The credit bureaus will send you any existing credit report they have on your child, or connected to your child’s social security number. They will also include instructions on how to remove fraudulent accounts or information.

The Keeping IDs Safe (K.I.D.S) Act gives you the right to place a security freeze on the credit report of your child if they are under 16 years old. Credit bureaus cannot charge more than $10 for placing or removing this freeze, and it is free to victims of identity theft. Each bureau has its own process for this, so you will need to contact them directly.

WHAT TO CONSIDER BEFORE TAKING ACTION?

If you are considering using one of the many services that advertise identity theft protection for a price, the Federal Trade Commissions provides an explanation of the different types of services offered along with low- or no-cost alternatives. You can find that here: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0235-identity-theft-protection-services

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