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AG Chris Koster | FAQs
Missouri Attorney General

Identity Theft

Message from Attorney General Chris Koster

Picture of AGO Chris Koster

Fellow Missourians,

One of the fastest growing crimes in the United States is identity theft. The FTC estimates that as many as nine million Americans have their identities stolen each year. This can be a frightening and devastating experience that can be expensive and can damage your good name.

Identity theft occurs when someone steals your personal information, such as your name, credit card number, or social security number, to commit fraud. The most common type of identity theft is credit card fraud, though the thief may use your information to open a bank account, order phone or wireless service, obtain government services, or a host of other fraudulent activities.

This identity theft prevention and repair website provides you with detailed information to help you prevent the theft of your identity and outlines the action you should take to repair damage caused by identity theft. I urge you to scrutinize the information and share it with family and friends. It can greatly reduce your risk of becoming a victim.

My office will continue to work to safeguard Missourians from identity theft. If you have questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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What is identity theft?

Identity theft is the crime of misusing someone's personal information to fraudulently set up bank accounts and credit facilities without that person's knowledge. Someone else pretends to be you to obtain credit, take out a loan, open an account, set up services or obtain identification.

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How does a thief steal my identity?

Identity thieves can obtain your personal information in several ways:

ID theft logo
Identity Theft Hotline

The Attorney General’s Office has set up a hotline to help you recognize and report identity theft. Complaint investigators also will help advise victims of identity theft.

FILE A COMPLAINT

Identity Theft Complaint Form (file with Attorney General's Office)

Identity Theft Incident Report (file with local police)

  • "Dumpster diving" - going through your trash looking for information
  • Stealing your mail
  • Stealing your wallet or purse
  • "Skimming" your debit or credit card numbers - stealing through a data storage device like an ATM or actual transaction
  • "Phishing" - sending an email or calling on the telephone falsely claiming to be a legitimate company, agency, bank or organization in order to entice potential victims to divulge personal information
  • Obtaining your credit report - posing as an employer or landlord
  • "Business record theft" - stealing hard files, hacking into electronic files or bribing an employee for access to files
  • Diverting your mail to another location - filling out a "change of address" form
  • "Pharming" - rerouting you to a copycat website when you type in a legitimate bank or e-commerce website in order to obtain your personal information

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How do I know if I am a victim of identity theft?

Most people discover their identifying information has been stolen when they apply for credit, such as a loan or credit card, and get denied. Some discover charges on their credit card or debit card they don't remember making. Other red flags may be your credit card bills or other mail stops coming, you find something incorrect on your credit report, a debt collector calls about a debt you don't owe and didn't know about or you are wrongly accused of a crime.

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What can I do to prevent identity theft?

There are several things you can do to prevent having your identity stolen:

Contact Us

You also can e-mail the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division if you have questions.

  • Use a paper shredder to destroy financial documents or other documents with personal information
  • Don't carry your social security card with you or write it on a check. Place the card in a safe place, only give it out when absolutely necessary and ask to use another identifier for accounts
  • Change your passwords every 60 days and make them "strong" (more difficult to "crack") by using a combination of uppercase, lower case, numbers and symbols. Avoid using your birthdate, mother's maiden name, last four digits of your social security number or other obvious identifying words or numbers
  • Order a free copy of your credit report from each of the three credit bureaus each year: Experian, Transunion and Equifax. It contains information about what credit accounts have been opened in your name, as well as where you live and work, how you pay your bills, if you've been sued, arrested or filed for bankruptcy. You are entitled to one free report each year from each of the three major bureaus
  • Watch your billing cycles closely. If a bill is late, check with your creditors to see why it has not arrived; and watch for any unauthorized charges or unexpected account statements
  • Have your mail sent to a post office box or get a locking mailbox. Also take outgoing mail to the post office
  • Only use a secure connection on the internet when sending credit card numbers or other personal information. The cite should begin with "https" with "s" meaning "secure"
  • Use virus protection and a firewall program to prevent your computer from being accessed by others, and keep them up to date. Don't download files or click on links from unknown sources; instead type in a web address you know. Also, unplug your Internet when you're not using it
  • Keep your personal information in a secure place at home, especially if you have roommates, employ outside help or are having work done at your house
  • Opt out of pre-approved credit card offers and receive fewer solicitations at home by calling 888-567-8688 or visiting www.optoutprescreen.com

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How do I get my free annual credit reports?

Each of the major nationwide consumer reporting companies are required by the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months. Do not contact the three nationwide consumer reporting companies individually; they provide free annual credit reports only through the following 3 methods:

To obtain a free copy of your report:

  • Visit www.annualcreditreport.com
  • Call toll-free 877-322-8228, or
  • Complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form at ftc.gov/credit and mail it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.

You are also entitled to a free report if a company takes adverse action against you, such as denying your application for credit, insurance or employment, and you request your report within 60 days of receiving notice of the action.

You are also entitled to one free report a year if you're unemployed and plan to look for a job within 60 days, you're on welfare, or your report is inaccurate because of fraud. Otherwise, a consumer reporting company may charge you up to $9.50 for any other copies of your report.

To buy a copy of your report, contact:

CREDIT BUREAUS
EQUIFAX
P.O. Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374
888-766-0008
EXPERIAN
P.O. Box 9532
Allen, TX 75013
888-EXPERIAN (397-3742)
TRANSUNION
P.O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92834
800-680-7289
 

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What do I do if I suspect I'm a victim of identity theft?

  • Order a copy of your credit report from one of the three credit bureaus. Check for credit accounts that you have not opened or if it contains other incorrect information
  • Place a fraud alert on your credit report, which tells creditors to follow certain procedures before they can open new accounts in your name or make changes to existing accounts (calling and alerting one bureau will place an alert to all three)
  • Close any accounts that you think have been tampered with or opened fraudulently
  • Call the security or fraud departments of each company where an account was fraudulently opened or changed without your permission; follow up in writing with documents that support your claim
  • Complete a Victim's Complaint and Affidavit by going to ftc.gov/idtheft and using the affidavit provided to support your written statement

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What do I do once I know my identity has been stolen?

Follow these steps immediately if you discover you've been a victim of identity theft:

  1. File a police report with your local police or sheriff's department
  2. Close any accounts that have been tampered with or opened without your knowledge
  3. Call the 3 credit reporting bureaus and place a fraud alert or security freeze on your credit file
  4. Review your credit report for accounts you didn't open, debts you didn't know about, inquiries from companies you don't know and other inaccurate information
  5. Dispute any fraudulent charges or accounts
  6. Block any fraudulent information from your credit report
  7. File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and the Attorney General's Office
  8. Use new account numbers and change all your passwords
  9. Keep track of your actions and save copies of all your correspondence

CONSUMER RESOURCES
FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION
ID Theft Clearinghouse
Washington, DC 20580
877-ID-THEFT (438-4338)
MISSOURI ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OFFICE
Consumer Protection
P.O. Box 899
Jefferson City, MO 65102
800-392-8222
BETTER BUSINESS BUREAU
211 N. Broadway, Ste 2060
St Louis, MO 63102
314-645-3300
 

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How do I fix specific identity theft problems, such as stolen checks or passports and phone fraud?

See the Attorney General's recommendations and important contact information.

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Should I use a credit monitoring service?

There are a variety of commercial services that, for a fee, will monitor your credit reports for activity and alert you to changes to your accounts. Prices and services vary widely. Many of the services only monitor one of the three major consumer reporting companies. If you're considering signing up for a service, make sure you understand what you're getting before you buy. Also check out the company with the Better Business Bureau and the Consumer Protection Division of the Attorney General's office to see if any complaints are on file.

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This information was adapted from the Federal Trade Commission.

 
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