There are many different forms of fraud that occur. Some of the most popular types of fraud are:
-Phishing – Emails pretending to be from a well-known source (bank or credit card company) asking to confirm personal information
-Nigerian Scams/Nigerian Money Offers
-On-line Dating Services
-Pump & Dump Scams– Where an online source promotes a Stock to raise the price and then he sells his at the raised price
Of the above types of fraud one of the most common is Identity Theft. Identity Theft has become one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States and is very prevalent in the St. Louis area.
What is Identity Theft?
Identity Theft is defined by Missouri Statute RSMO 570.223. The statute states:
A person commits the crime of identity theft is s(he):
- Knowingly and with the intent to deceive or defraud
- Obtains, possesses, transfers, uses, or attempts to obtain, transfer or use,
- One or more means of identification not lawfully issued for his/her use.
The classifications for identity theft in the State of Missouri range from a class B misdemeanor to a class A felony.
How can Identify Theft affect me?
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), individuals who have had their identities stolen could be tasked with months or longer worth or work cleaning up their credit histories. The task of clearing your credit history and name can also cost thousands of dollars. While individuals are working to clear their names and credit history, those victims may lose job opportunities, be denied credit or loans, or even be arrested for crimes they did not commit. The victim of an identity theft will be contacted by creditors on loans they did not take out. The victim will be required to use their personal time and resources to make phone calls, write letters, and fill out affidavits to close these fraudulent accounts that they did not open. Many times the victims are forced to prove that they are indeed victims.
How can my information be used?
A suspect can use your information to:
-Open credit card accounts in your name or add authorized users to your existing accounts
-Open bank accounts in your name
-Obtain loans in your name (real estate, auto, or personal)
-Establish utilities (power, gas, water, internet, or phone) in your name
-Obtain cell phone accounts in your name
-Counterfeit checks using your bank account information and drain your account
How can someone obtain my information?
An individual can obtain your personal information by:
-Stealing your wallet or purse
-Breaking in to your vehicle and obtaining information off of documents left in the vehicle
-Stealing your mail
-Filling out a change of address form to divert your mail to another address
-Going through your trash looking for financial documents or pre-approved credit offers
-Going through the trash at businesses or "dumpster diving"
-Stealing it from businesses where you are a customer, patient, student or getting it from an employee who may have access to the information
-Scamming you into giving it to them. They may pose as an employee from a legitimate sounding business and ask you for the information to open up or to update an account
-Gathering the personal information that you share on an unsecure website
-Data breaches of businesses where you are a customer and have left some form of personal information in the past
What can I do to protect myself?
While it is impossible to prevent identity theft entirely, there are steps that you can take in order to reduce the risks of becoming a victim or at least to discover that you are a victim before the damage to your credit becomes too great.
-Review your credit reports with the three major credit bureaus annually to ensure the reports are reflecting your accounts accurately
-Know who you are giving your personal information to and how it will be used
-Minimize the amount of personal information that your carry in your wallet. Do not carry extra credit cards or your social security card on a daily basis
-Do not place sensitive outgoing mail in your mailbox—place outgoing mail in a secure mailbox
-SHRED IT OR DREAD IT. Never throw away financial documents, receipts, or pre-approved credit offers without shredding them first
-Never write down your passwords or any personal identification number (PIN)
-Protect your social security number and only provide it to reliable sources when necessary
-Pay attention to your billing cycles and follow up with companies if your bills do not arrive on time
-Secure personal information in your home so that it is not readily accessible to visitors
-Never leave personal or financial information in your vehicle
-Create strong passwords for all of your online accounts and change them on a regular basis
I am a victim of Identity Theft…What do I do now?
-File a report with the jurisdiction where the crime occurred. If the offense occurred in the city limits of Ballwin, or the jurisdiction where the crime occurred will not take a report AND you live in Ballwin, call 636-227-9636 to file a police report
-Contact one of the three (3) major credit reporting bureaus (Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion) to report the fraud. Request that a fraud alert be placed on your account and request a copy of your credit report. The other two credit bureaus will automatically be notified to place a fraud alert on your credit file and all three reports will be sent to you free of charge
-Review your credit report for accuracy
-Contact the creditors for the accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently to close those accounts. Advise them of the fraudulent use of your information and request that they send you a fraud dispute form. Most creditors will accept the FTC fraud affidavit or an official police report
-File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC maintains a database that law enforcement can use to assist with their investigations.
-Act quickly and be persistent
-Follow up with creditors in writing and maintain all written correspondence for future use
-Keep a log documenting the representatives and companies that you have spoken with in regards to the fraudulent or tampered with accounts
-Do not pay any bill or portion of a bill that is a result of a fraudulent account.
If you have any questions you can contact
Detective Scott Stephens
Helpful phone numbers for victims of Identity Theft
Ballwin Police Department: 636-227-9636
To notify retailers who use their databases not to accept your check:
TELECHECK: 1-800-710-9898 or 927-0188
INTERNATIONAL CHECKS SERVICES: 1-800-631-9656
CONSUMER CREDIT COUNSELING SERVICE: 800-388-2227
CREDIT REPORTING BUREAUS
PO Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
To order credit report: 800-685-1111
To opt out of marketing lists: 888-567-8688
To report fraud: 800-525-6285
PO Box 390, Springfield, PA 19064-0390
To order credit report: 800-888-4213
To opt of marketing lists: 888-567-8688
To report fraud: 800-680-7289
PO Box 2104, Allen, TX 75013-2104
To order credit report: 888-397-3742
To opt out of marketing lists: 800-353-0809
To report fraud: 800-301-7195
FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION
To file a complaint: 877-ID THEFT
To opt out of prescreened credit card offers:
SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION
Helpful web based resources for victim of Identity Theft:
Federal Trade Commission: http://www.consumer.gov/idtheft/
ID Theft Resource Center: http://www.idtheftcenter.org/
United States Department of Justice: http://www.justice.gov/criminal/fraud/websites/idtheft.html
United States Postal Service: https://postalinspectors.uspis.gov/investigations/MailFraud/fraudschemes/mailtheft/IdentityTheft.aspx
United States Secret Service: http://www.secretservice.gov/investigation/
Social Security Administration: http://oig.ssa.gov/report-fraud-waste-or-abuse