ID Theft Alert: Frequently Asked Questions
- Am I at risk for identity theft?
- What specific items of my personal information are at risk?
- How will I know if any of my personal information was used by someone else?
- Do I have to pay for the credit report?
- What should I look for on my credit report?
- What should I do if I suspect fraud?
- How long does a fraud alert stay on my credit report?
- Will a fraud alert stop me from using my credit cards?
- Can I still apply for credit after I place a fraud alert on my credit report?
- What should I do if I find out that I have been a victim of identify theft?
- Should I ask the Social Security Administration to change my Social Security number?
- Should I close my bank accounts?
- Should I close my credit card or other accounts?
A. If personal information about you (your name and social security number) have been compromised, you are at risk for the theft of your identity. Your personal information has been compromised (1) if the Attorney General has notified you that your name and social security information have been found among records that were copied without permission; or (2) you were enrolled in certain medical/drug, dental, and group life insurance plans offered by the Hawaii Government Employees Association (“HGEA”) or the United Public Workers union (“UPW”) between July 1999 and December 1999. Union members who participated in those plans are at risk as well as the spouse and dependent children of UPW members who participated. Family members of those who participated in HGEA plans are not at risk because their names were not included in the records that were stolen. The plans are identified in the press release that can be found on this website.
Even though your personal information was stolen, your identity may not have been stolen. Identity theft is usually discovered “after the fact” (that is, after your information has been compromised). Therefore, we recommend that you check your credit reports for any unusual or suspicious activities.
Q. What specific items of my personal information are at risk?
A. The name and social security number of all persons affected by this incident are involved. The address and birthdate of some individuals are also involved.
Q. How will I know if any of my personal information was used by someone else?
A. The best way to find out is to obtain your credit report from the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. You can obtain a free credit report from each credit bureau each year by visitingwww.annualcreditreport.com. You can contact the credit bureaus as follows:
If you notice accounts on your credit report that you did not open or applications for credit (“inquiries”) that you did not make, those could be indications that someone is using your personal information without your permission.
Another way to find out is to check your Social Security Statement. The Statement lists earnings posted to your Social Security record, including earnings of anyone who used your social security number to get a job. You can request a copy at www.ssa.gov/mystatement. The Social Security Administration will mail the Statement to you in two to four weeks. If you find an error on your Statement or something that is questionable, contact Social Security right away.
Be on the alert for other possible signs of identity theft, such as missing monthly statements from credit card companies that might indicate your address has been changed; calls from creditors or debt collectors about bills you don’t recognize; or unusual charges on your credit card bills. On major credit cards, you can sign up for online access to your account and check your account activity at any time.
Q. Do I have to pay for the credit report?
A. No. Federal law entitles you to a free copy of your credit report each year from each of the three credit reporting agencies. You may be entitled to additional free credit reports if you place a fraud alert on your credit report.
Q. What should I look for on my credit report?
A. Look for any accounts that you don’t recognize, especially accounts opened recently. Look at the inquiries or requests section for names of creditors from whom you haven’t requested credit. Look in the personal information section of your credit report for addresses where you’ve never lived.
If you find items you don’t understand on your report, call the credit bureau at the number given on the report. Credit bureau staff will review your report with you. If the information can’t be explained, then you will need to call the creditors involved and report the crime to your local police department. For more information on what to do in that case, visit the Federal Trade Commission Identity Theft website at http://www.consumer.gov/idtheft/.
Q. What should I do if I suspect fraud?
A. If you suspect fraud, you can place a fraud alert on your credit card. The fraud alert requests creditors to contact you by phone before opening any new accounts or making any changes to your existing accounts. That will protect you from fraudulent use of your personal information, but it may also cause delays in obtaining credit approvals. When a business sees a fraud alert on your credit report, it must verify your identity before issuing you credit. As part of the verification process, the business may try to contact you directly. That could cause some delays if you are trying to obtain credit.
As soon as the credit bureau confirms your fraud alert, the other two credit bureaus will be automatically notified to place fraud alerts, and all three credit reports will be sent to you free of charge. To place a fraud alert on your credit reports, contact the fraud department at any one of the three major credit bureaus:
- TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289 (http://www.transunion.com)
- Experian: 1-888-397-3742 (http://www.experian.com)
- Equifax: 1-800-525-6285 (http://www.equifax.com)
Q. How long does a fraud alert stay on my credit report?
A. An initial alert stays on your credit report for at least 90 days. You can have an extended alert placed on your credit report for seven years if you have been a victim of identity theft (that is, if you can prove that someone has used your personal information without your permission) and you provide the credit bureau with a police report. When you place an extended alert on your credit report, the consumer reporting companies will remove your name from marketing lists for pre-screened credit offers for five years – unless you ask them to put your name back on those lists before then.
Q. Will a fraud alert stop me from using my credit cards?
A. No. A fraud alert will not stop you from using your existing credit cards or other accounts. It may slow down your ability to get new credit, however. Its purpose is to help protect you against an identity thief trying to open credit accounts in your name. Credit issuers get a special message alerting them to the possibility of fraud. Creditors know that they should verify the identity of the person applying for credit by calling you at the telephone number you provide to the credit bureaus.
Q. Can I still apply for credit after I place a fraud alert on my credit report?
A. You should still be able to get credit. While a fraud alert may slow down the application process, you can prove your identity to a prospective creditor by providing identifying information.
Q. What should I do if I find out that I have been a victim of identify theft?
A. You should contact your local law enforcement agency and file a police report. Also contact any creditors involved and notify the credit bureaus. For more details on what to do, see the Federal Trade Commission Identity Theft website at http://www.consumer.gov/idtheft/.
Q. Should I ask the Social Security Administration to change my Social Security number?
A. The Social Security Administration very rarely changes a person’s SSN, and the mere possibility of fraudulent use of your SSN would probably not be accepted as sufficient justification. There are drawbacks to changing your number. The absence of any history under the new SSN would make it difficult to get credit, open a bank account, get health insurance, etc. In most cases, getting a new SSN would not be a good idea.