one of the estimated 700,000 American consumers who fell prey to identity
theft during 2001, Jennifer Perkins 88 was a victim of what is becoming
the most popular form of consumer fraud.
Her troubles started when an online retailer contacted her about a discrepancy
in a credit card purchase. Not thinking much about it, Perkins canceled
the credit card. Then, a month later, she and her husband found that a
withdrawal had been made from their account at a branch several hundred
miles from their home. The perpetrator had used a drivers license
with Perkins name and license number.
She filed paperwork with the Department of Motor Vehicles and filed a
report with her local police department. Then she got a letter from a
collection agency claiming that she owed money on a credit card that she
didnt even have.
Eventually, by requesting her credit report, Perkins found that another
woman was posing as her and had created a new line of credit to purchase
cell phones, set up credit cards, and even take out an $82,000 business
Today Perkins believes that an employee of a financial institution sold
her information to the woman who then racked up debt in Perkins
Though Congress passed the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act
in 1998, making identity theft and fraud a criminal offense, the law doesnt
help everyone. Perkins cautions others with a few tips and suggestions.
- Dont carry your Social Security card, passport, or extra
credit cards that you dont regularly use.
- Shred bank and credit card statements as well as pre-approved credit
offers. Dumpster Divers can steal your information right
from your trash can.
- Get copies of your credit reports once a year. The three major
credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian, TransUnion, can be found
on the Web.
- Keep the 800 numbers for your bank and credit card companies to
report unusual activity, theft or loss immediately.
- If you find yourself a victim of identity theft or fraud, ask that
a fraud alert be placed on your credit file and that no
new credit be granted without your approval.
- File a report with your local police or the police where the identity
theft took place.
- Keep a record of your contacts, and start a file with copies of
your credit reports, the police report, correspondence, and copies of