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Act quickly to undo identity theft actions

By Bonnie Coblentz
MSU Ag Communications

MISSISSIPPI STATE -- People who find themselves victims of identity fraud can clear their names and credit if they act quickly to stop the fraud.

Bobbie Shaffett, family resource management specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said identity theft is when one person steals the personal information of another and uses it for financial gain.

“With a credit card or bank account number, they can pretend to be you and steal your money or charge expenses, but if they have your Social Security number, they can impersonate you and do a lot of things to ruin you financially,” Shaffett said.

Protect Social Security numbers. Do not put them on checks or driver's licenses, and do not carry them.

“With this number and your address, someone can steal your identity,” she said.

Numerous laws protect consumers and punish those who commit identity theft and fraud. Victims must act quickly to report the crime and do their part to see that it is solved. The Federal Trade Commission lists on its Web site four steps that a victim of identity theft should follow.

Rick Eades, a Ridgeland father of an identity theft victim, said good documentation and quick action on his part and that of the Mississippi attorney general's office helped resolve his daughter's fraud case.

He urged victims to take each step suggested by the FTC and the state attorney general's office when their identity is stolen. Keep all records developed in this process.

Victims should get copies of their credit reports and note if a new address is listed. Contact the fraud department of at least one of the credit bureaus. File the ID theft affidavit with the state attorney general's office in person, if possible, Eades said.

“Continue following up with all notified agencies to learn of the results of their investigative efforts,” Eades said.

Shaffett said while the work of an identity thief usually can be undone, it is much better never to let it happen at all. By law, victims of identity theft can put a freeze on their credit reports. Credit bureaus may charge up to $10 to do this, but it locks access to the consumer's credit report and credit score.

“Without this information, a business will not issue new credit to a thief,” Shaffett said. “When the consumer wants to get new credit, they use a personal identification number to unlock access to the credit file. This may take some time and cost another small fee, but it may be worth it to a victim who is extremely concerned about further access to their files.”

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Released: Jan. 31, 2008
Contact: Dr. Bobbie Shaffett, (662) 325-3080