Iowa Attorney General

Guide for Victims of Identity Theft

Identity theft crimes are on the rise, causing nationwide concern.  Your personal identifying information can be accessed in an increasing variety of ways.  An imposter can misuse your information to open fraudulent credit card accounts, secure deposits on cars and housing, obtain employment opportunities, create insurance benefits, and rob retirement earnings.  This form of financial sabotage can devastate your credit and require endless hours of telephone and written communication to resolve.  In the meantime, you may experience difficulty writing checks, obtaining loans, renting apartments, and even getting hired. 

While there are basically six (6) types of identity theft (financial, employment, government benefits, medical, criminal and social media), financial identity theft is by far the most epidemic.  This guide provides victims of all types of identity theft with clear and concise information, and the major resources to contact to resolve the conflicts which remain long after the thief disappears.  Unfortunately, the responsibility of identifying and resolving the consequences of identity theft is left largely to the victims themselves.  It is important to act quickly and assertively to minimize the damage to your credit reputation.  While identity theft is a "crime" which law enforcement officials can prosecute, the perpetrator is often difficult to track.  In addition, law enforcement officials cannot clean up the havoc created for you.

In dealing with the authorities and financial institutions, keep a log of all conversations, including dates, names, and telephone numbers.  Keep notes on the time spent and any expenses incurred.  Confirm all conversations in writing.  Send correspondence by certified mail (return receipt requested).  Keep copies of all letters and documents.

Step #1
File a report with local law enforcement

Step #2
Put a security freeze on your credit reports

Step #3
Order and review all 3 of your credit reports

Step #4
Dispute fraudulent information in writing

1.  Law Enforcement Report:  Report the crime to all police and sheriff's departments with jurisdiction in your case.  Give them as much documented evidence as possible.  Get a copy of your police report.  Keep the telephone number of your fraud investigator handy and give it to creditors and others who require certification of your case.  Banks and credit card companies may require you to produce the police report in order to verify the crime.

2.  Credit Reporting Agencies: Fraud Alert  Immediately call the three national credit reporting agencies  (Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union) to place an automated “initial fraud alert” on your credit reports.
 
Regardless of which of the three credit bureaus you call, your initial fraud alert will be shared with the remaining two agencies.  Your call will place an initial (90-day) fraud alert on your credit report.  You must follow the telephone call up with a completed ID Theft Affidavit which can be found online at http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/pdf-0094-identity-theft-affidavit.pdf and a copy of your police report to request an “extended fraud alert” in writing which will remain in effect for 7 years.  You may add a fraud victim statement to your extended fraud alert which can contain up to 100 words and should give a brief summary of your circumstances such as: "My identification has been used to apply for fraudulent credit.  Do NOT open any new lines of credit or change my contact information on existing lines of credit without contacting me personally at [your mailing address and a couple of telephone numbers where you can be reached most of the time] to verify all applications and/or actions taken."  An initial fraud alert entitles you to a free copy of your credit report at each of the three national credit reporting agencies, and an extended fraud alert entitles you to two free credit reports in a 12-month period following the placing of the alert. You may contact the three national credit reporting agencies as follows:

Equifax
P.O. Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374
Toll Free:  800-685-1111 
 
Experian
P.O. Box 4500
Allen, TX  75013
Toll Free:  888-397-3742 
 
Trans Union
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19022
Toll Free:  800-680-7289 
www.transunion.com           
 

Credit Reporting Agencies: Placing a Security Freeze on Your Credit Report Placing a fraud alert on your credit report will not entirely stop fraudulent new accounts from being opened by the identity thief.  Iowans have a legal right to tell the three national credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) to place a  “security freeze” or block on sharing their credit reports.  A security freeze prevents potential creditors and other third parties from accessing credit reports without your approval. Most businesses will not open credit card or other accounts without checking your credit history.  If your credit reports are frozen, an identity thief would be unlikely to get credit in your name.

A security freeze is free to identity theft victims who have filed a police report of identity theft.  For others, there is a one-time $10 fee to place a security freeze with each of the credit agencies, or $30 total for the three credit agencies.   You must write to each of the three credit agencies and provide your identifying information.  A security “freeze” will not lower your credit score.  A security freeze remains in place until you ask to lift it (in order to apply for a new job, for example, or for a home or auto loan.)  To lift a security freeze, consumers must contact the credit agency utilized by the credit grantor and pay the required fee.  By Iowa law, the maximum each credit agency may charge is $12.  Please note that a security freeze cannot prevent all types of identity theft.  However, financial identity theft is the most common form of identity theft.

Credit Reporting Agencies: Free Copy of Your Credit Report  You are entitled to a FREE copy of the credit reports compiled by the three national credit reporting agencies.  You can get one free copy from each credit agency every twelve months. You can order all three reports at once, or you can get them one at a time every four months or so. Monitoring your credit card statements and your credit reports are the most important steps you can take to safeguard your credit identity because you can catch errors and detect identity theft early. Equifax, Experian and TransUnion are private industry competitors who collect data independently.  Thus, all three credit reports must be reviewed to ensure the accuracy and safety of your credit information. Your free credit report does not contain your credit score as it is the work product and thereby property of  the respective credit agencies.  The Federal Trade Commission required the three national credit reporting agencies to create a joint clearinghouse for consumer requests, so ordering your credit report is very easy: Just call, write or go online to:                       

Annual Credit Report/Central Source
P.O. Box 105283                                
Atlanta, GA 30348                                    
Toll Free:  877-322-8228                       
 

Credit Reporting Agencies: Disputing Errors Once you receive your credit report, look for unfamiliar credit card accounts or other suspicious activity, such as incorrect addresses or indications of delinquent payments. Send a dispute letter to each credit agency that lists credit grantors with whom fraudulent accounts have been opened.  A sample dispute letter can be found at http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0385-sample-letter-disputing-billing-errors

Request the credit agencies, in writing, to remove inquiries that have been generated due to the fraudulent access.  Request that all fraudulent account information and inquiries be permanently removed from your credit report.  You may also request the credit agencies to notify those who have received your credit report in the last six months in order to alert them to the disputed and erroneous information (two years for employers).

3.  Creditor Grantors:  Contact all creditor grantors immediately with whom your name has been used fraudulently by telephone AND in writing.  Get replacement cards with new account numbers for your own accounts that have been used fraudulently.  Ask that old accounts be processed as "account closed at consumer's request."  This is better than "card lost or stolen," because when this statement is reported to credit agencies, it can be interpreted as blaming you for the loss.  Carefully monitor your mail, bank and credit card statements for evidence of new fraudulent activity.  Report it immediately to credit grantors.

Victims of unauthorized use of a credit card will be liable for no more than the first $50 of the loss, although this fee is often waived and the victim will not be required to pay any part of the loss.  (15 United States Code section 1643)

You may be asked by banks or credit grantors to fill out and notarize an Identity Theft Affidavit, such as the one that is discussed in section two (2).  Find out if the credit grantor accepts this affidavit and whether they require notarization or a police report.  An Identity Theft Affidavit with supporting documentation and a police report should be enough.  Overly burdensome requirements by banks or creditors should be reported to the government authority which regulates the credit grantor.  To determine which authority regulates the particular credit grantor in question, write, call or log on to:

Iowa Department of Commerce
Banking Division
200 East Grand, Suite 300
Des Moines, IA 50309
Phone: 515-281-4014
www.idob.state.ia.us
 

4.  Stolen Checks:  If you have had checks stolen or bank accounts set up fraudulently, report it to the check verification companies listed below.  Put stop payments on any outstanding checks that you are unsure of.  Cancel your checking and savings accounts and obtain new account numbers.  Give the bank a secret password for your account(s). 

Check Verification
Company

Telephone Number

Mailing Address

CheckRite
www.midwestcheckrite.com

800-627-0041

PO Box 5632
Topeka, KS  66605

CheckVelocity
www.checkvelocity.com

800-430-2370

PO Box 331047
Nashville, TN 37203

ChexSystems
www.chexhelp.com

800-428-9623

7805 Hudson Road, Suite 100
Woodbury, MN   55125

CrossCheck
www.cross-check.com

707- 665-2100

1440 N. McDowell Blvd.
Petaluma, CA 94954

Global Payments
www.globalpaymentsinc.com

800-560-2960

10 Glenlake Parkway NE
Atlanta, GA 30328

Payment Chek (Early Warning)
www.earlywarning.com

800-325-7775

16552 N. 90th Street #100
Scottsdale, AZ 85260

TeleCheck (First Data)
www.firstdata.com

800-710-9898

5251 Westheimer
Houston, TX 77056

VeriCheck
www.vericheck.com

404-872-4585

12A Town Square
Blairsville, GA 30512

 

5.  Debit Cards:  If your debit card has been stolen or compromised, get a new card, account number and password.  Do not use your old password.  Whenever you use your debit card, you are leaving behind an electronic trail that leads right back to your checking account.  So when traveling, or dealing with an unknown merchant, or when making large purchases or any purchase online, consider using a credit card.  Credit cards as discussed in section three (3) carry a maximum liability of $50 to you.  With today’s hacking problems and security breach notices from major businesses, it can be comforting to know that you paid with a credit card and not a debit card that leads straight back to your money.  In addition, there are sometimes “blocking” surprises when paying at point-of-sale gas terminals or when making reservations at hotels or car rental companies who place a hold on your account because they have no way of knowing how much your final bill will be.  Increased warranty coverage and reward programs are another bonus of some credit card plans.                     

6.  Fraudulent Change of Address or Mail Theft:  Notify the U.S. Postal Inspector's Office for Iowa if you suspect an identity thief has filed a change of address with the post office or has used the mail to commit bank or credit fraud.  Theft of mail is a felony.  Find out where the fraudulent credit cards were sent.  Notify the local Postmaster for that address to forward all mail in your name to your own address. You may also need to talk with the local mail carrier for that address as well.

U.S. Postal Inspectors
Criminal Investigations Service Center
Attention: Mail Fraud
222 South Riverside Plaza, Suite 1250
Chicago, IL 60606
Phone: 877-876-2455
postalinspectors.uspis.gov
 

7.  Secret Service Jurisdiction:  The Secret Service investigates crimes dealing with credit card fraud, financial institution fraud, and crimes dealing with the false use of personal identifiers (such as name, date of birth, or Social Security number) relating to interstate financial crimes.  However, the Secret Service usually does not investigate individual cases unless the dollar amount is high or you are one of many victims of a larger fraud case.  If the actual crime (fraudulent application or charges) occurred outside of Iowa, the Secret Service may forward your case to the appropriate office.

U.S. Secret Service
210 Walnut Street, Room 637
Des Moines, IA  50309
Phone: 515-284-4565
 

8.  Employment Fraud:  To determine if someone is misusing your Social Security number for employment purposes, order a copy of your Social Security Statement from Social Security Administration to check for inaccuracies or fraud.  To request a Statement call or write to the office listed below.  Once you have determined that there are too many or too few earnings are recorded on your Statement, or if your name is recorded incorrectly, call, write or log on to:

Social Security Administration
Office of the Inspector General (OIG)
Riverpoint Office Complex
455 SW 5th Street, Suite F
Des Moines, IA 50309
Phone:  800-772-1213 toll-free
website to download a statement application:  www.ssa.gov
 

If someone is misusing your Social Security number, as a last resort, you may consider changing your number.  The Social Security Administration will change your number only if you fit specific fraud victim criteria.  For more information, call or write the office listed below and request the fact sheet, Social Security:  When Someone Misuses Your Social Security Number, SSA Pub. No. 05-10064.  Report the fraudulent use of your Social Security number to:

Social Security Administration
Office of the Inspector General (OIG)
Social Security Fraud Hotline
P.O. Box 17785
Baltimore, Maryland 21235
Toll Free:  800-269-0271  (OIG Fraud Hotline)
http://oig.ssa.gov/contact-oig
 

9.  Income Tax Fraud:  Any fraudulent use of another person's Social Security number, including dependents' Social Security numbers, to obtain an income tax refund should be reported to:

Internal Revenue Service (for federal income tax)
210 Walnut Street, Room 147
Des Moines, IA   50309
Phone: 515-564-6618
 
Internal Revenue Service
Criminal Investigation Division
1111 Constitution Avenue NW, Room 2501
Washington, DC 20224
Toll Free: 800-829-0433
www.irs.gov/uac/Criminal-Enforcement-1
 
Iowa Department of Revenue (for state income tax)
Hoover State Office Building
1305 East Walnut Street, 4th Floor
Des Moines IA 50319
Phone:  515-281-3114
Toll Free:  800-367-3388 
https://tax.iowa.gov
 

10.  Travel Passports:  If you are the victim of identity theft and have a travel passport, notify the passport office, in writing, to be on the lookout for anyone ordering a new passport fraudulently.

U.S. Postal Service
Passport Acceptance Unit
1165 - 2nd Avenue, Room 228
Des Moines, IA  50318-9802
Phone: 515-283-7585
 
U.S. Department of State
Consular Lost and Stolen Passport (CLASP) Section
1150 Passport Services Place, 4th Floor
Dulles, VA 20189
Phone: 877-487-2778 toll-free
 

11.  Identity Theft Passports:  The Identity Theft Passport Act established by Iowa code section 715A.9A provides victims of identity theft with a way to substantiate the crime to creditor grantors and law enforcement. Victims of identity theft can present their Identity Theft Passport to law enforcement agencies to help prevent their arrest for offenses committed by an imposter.  The Identity Theft Passport may also be presented to creditor grantors to aid in the investigation of fraudulent charges and to credit reporting agencies as an official notice of disputed charges on consumer credit reports.  An Identity Theft Passport will not be issued for instances of mistaken identity or loss of documents containing identifying information. Individuals who reside in Iowa and suspect they are victims of identity theft may apply by contacting their local law enforcement agency.  Applicants must provide documentation to support the claim of identity theft and a current photo along with the completed Application for the Identity Theft Passport.  The law enforcement agency will forward your Identity Theft Passport Application and documentation to the Identity Theft Passport Program of the Crime Victim Assistance Division.  To obtain additional information about the Identity Theft Passport program call, write or log on to:

Iowa Attorney General’s Office
Crime Victim Assistance Division
Lucas State Office Building
321 East 12th Street, Ground Floor
Des Moines, IA 50319
Phone: 515-281-5044
Phone: 800-373-5044 (toll-free in Iowa)
 

12.  Utilities:  If your cell phone or long distance calling card has been stolen or if you discover fraudulent charges on your bills, cancel the accounts and open new ones.  To avoid being "slammed," request that your local telephone service "freeze" your long distance carrier so it cannot be changed without specific authorization using a password.  To avoid being "crammed," scrutinize every charge on your billing statements for fraudulent or unauthorized charges.  Notify your gas, electric, water, and trash utilities that you are a victim of identity theft and alert them to the possibility that the thief may try to establish accounts using your personal information.

13.  Driver's License Fraud:  You may need to change your driver's license number if someone is using yours fraudulently.  Call the Iowa Department of Transportation's Motor Vehicle Information Center and verify the last issuance date of your license.  If there is a discrepancy, go to your local driver's license station and apply for a duplicate license with a new ‘assigned’ number.  Send a letter, complete with supporting documents, requesting a fraud investigation to:

Iowa Department of Transportation/Driver Services
6310 SE Convenience Boulevard
Ankeny, IA 50021
Phone:  515-244-8725
Phone: 800-532-1121 (toll-free in Iowa)
www.iowadot.gov/mvd/driverslicense/lost
 

14. False Civil and Criminal Judgments:  Sometimes victims of identify theft are wrongfully accused of crimes committed by the imposter.  If a civil judgment has been entered against you for actions taken by your imposter, contact the court where the judgment was entered and report that you are a victim of identify theft.  If you are wrongfully prosecuted for criminal charges, contact the prosecuting agency and/or the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and ask how to clear your name.

U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
4401 Westown Parkway, Suite 320
West Des Moines, IA 50266
Phone: 515-223-4278
www.fbi.gov
 

15.  Credit Reporting Fraud: The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) maintains the Identity Theft Data Clearinghouse, the federal government’s centralized identity theft complaint database, and provides information to identity theft victims.  The FTC collects complaints from identity theft victims and shares their information with law enforcement nationwide.  This information also may be shared with other government agencies, credit agencies, and companies where fraud was perpetrated to help resolve identity theft related problems.  If you find that there has been unauthorized access or use of your credit report, the Federal Trade Commission will be able to advise you of your rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.  Call, write or log on to:

Federal Trade Commission
Consumer Response Center
 600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW    
Washington, DC 20580
 
16.  Social Media:  Are you on sites such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube or Twitter?  Social media sites can increase consumer vulnerability to identity theft because of the amount and type of personal information people share on these networks.
 

The most damaging possibility occurs when someone wants to pose as you in order to disrupt your life. This disruption can take on many forms. They may pose as you in order to harass and stalk you or people you know, or they may steal your social media identity for financial gain. Identity thieves use a combination of email and social media information to extract funds from others, or to open new accounts.  Everyday, consumers will fall victim to scams, trickery and tomfoolery that can lead to hijacking your web page, email list of friends or entire computer which can re-route your personal information!

Keep in mind that digital information never goes away, you (and your children) will want to be savvy about the amount and kind of information you post and share globally.  Some of the best ways to protect yourself are to create unique passwords, have virus protection on your computer, never open an e-mail message unless you know the sender and don’t use web links built in to email messages (go directly to the website via your own bookmark or engine search.) 

17.  Insurance Coverage:  You may want to consult with your insurance agent to determine whether your losses may be covered by household or other insurance policies.

18.  Legal Help:  You may want to consult with a private attorney to determine legal action to take against creditor grantors and/or credit agencies if they are not cooperative in removing fraudulent entries from your credit report or if negligence is a factor.  A private attorney can help you recover from the fraud and determine whether your rights under various credit, banking, Social Security, and other laws have been violated.  The Iowa State Bar Association will provide you with the name of an attorney in your area that handles consumer protection issues.  If you should decide to consult with the attorney to whom you were referred, this service ensures that you will not be charged more than $25.00 for the first half hour of consultation.  Go online to:

Iowa State Bar Association
Lawyer Referral Service
 

19.  Legal Remedies:  Identity theft is a crime in Iowa with both civil (Iowa code section 714.16B) and criminal penalties (Iowa code section 715A.8 which also defines “identification information” and 715A.9 defines the “value” of property or services.)  

If you wish to pursue a civil remedy, you may consider filing your case through Small Claims Court.  The maximum allowable claim is $5,000 in Iowa.  This private action would permit you to recover $5,000 or three times the actual damages, whichever is greater along with reasonable attorney fees and court costs. Small claims court procedures are designed for people to pursue their claims without an attorney's help, although representation by an attorney in small claims court is also allowed.  Your claim can be filed through the Clerk of Court in the county where the theft took place. The Clerk's Office will provide you with the necessary forms and information throughout the process.
 
You may also consider contacting a private attorney for advice and assistance in determining your rights and remedies.  If your claim is for more than $5,000, you will need to contact a private attorney to file a claim in District Court.  Refer to section eighteen  (18) for the Iowa State Bar Association's Lawyer Referral Service or check the yellow page listings under attorneys or lawyers in your local telephone directory. 

If you wish to pursue a criminal remedy, you may consider filing a report with the law enforcement agency where the identity thief resides for possible prosecution under that state's laws.  The law enforcement agency will review your case with the county or district attorney who has primary jurisdiction in filing criminal charges in that locale.

20.  Making Changes:  New laws regarding right to privacy issues and fraud victim assistance programs are currently being drafted and proposed at the federal and state levels of government.  If you are disappointed with the privacy protection and fraud assistance available under current laws, consider writing your federal and state legislators concerning your experience.  To obtain a list of Iowa Senators and Representatives, log on to: www.legis.iowa.gov.  To obtain a list of U.S. Senators and Representatives, log on to: www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm and www.house.gov/representatives.

21.  Internet Access:  Don’t own a computer but you need access to the Internet?  You aren't alone. Unfortunately, some information and services are only available via the Internet.  Some accounts require the holder to have an email address as a basis for communication and identification.  In today’s high-tech environment, not having access to the Internet will be even more challenging.  There may be several places in your community that provide public use computers as well as Internet access at little or no charge as follows:

  •           Public Library
  •           Community Center
  •           Senior Center
  •           Community College or University
  •           Office Supply Store (such as Staples, Office Depot and Office Max)
  •           Book Store, Café, Coffee Shop, Gaming Center, Hotels, Rest Areas, Restaurants and Truck Stops

22.  Don't Give In:  Remember, you are not responsible for any bill, portion of a bill, checks written or cashed which result from identity theft.  Your credit rating should not be permanently affected, and no legal action should be taken against you.  If any merchant, financial institution or collection agency suggests otherwise, simply restate your willingness to cooperate, but don't allow yourself to be coerced into paying a fraudulent debt.  Many victims of identity theft report feeling angry, frustrated, powerless, and even violated.  If these feelings persist or become overwhelming, talk to your friends, family members, a counselor or your doctor.

23. For More Information: www.identitytheft.gov (en español: www.RobodeIdentidad.gov)

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