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Dealing with a Security Breach
Under Maine law, a company must notify you if they believe that personal information about you has been lost or stolen from their files (or from the files of a subcontractor working for them). So what do you do if you receive such a notice?
- As you read the information, keep in mind that Maine law not only authorizes the placement of a fraud alert, but also permits consumers to "freeze" their credit reports. Our state's file freeze law is found at the following link: http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/statutes/10/title10sec1310.html
- For a discussion about the causes and effects of identity theft, read our information on the subject: http://www.maine.gov/pfr/consumercredit/documents/identity_theft.htm
- Information in your credit report will tell you whether someone us misusing your personal data to open accounts in your name. All consumers are entitled to a free report from each of the three national agencies once each year, the link to the truly free annual report is https://www.annualcreditreport.com/cra/index.jsp You can also call 1-877-322-8228 or write to:
Annual Credit Report Request Service
P.O. Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281
- Here is the contact information for the three national credit reporting networks:
P.O. Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
Fraud Alerts or Security Freezes call: 800-525-6285
P.O. Box 2104
Allen, TX 75013-0949
Fraud Alerts or Security Freezes call: 888-397-3742
P.O. Box 1000
Chester, PA 19022
Fraud Alerts or Security Freezes call: 800-680-7289
- Here is the link to our Downeaster Common Sense Guide to Credit Bureaus and Credit Scores (PDF) (RTF)
- Finally, here are some frequently asked questions (and responses) relating to identity theft:
What can I do to help prevent identity theft?
- When your identity has been stolen, it may take months or even years before you realize that somebody is using your good credit rating. Checking the accuracy of your credit report regularly can detect signs of identity theft early. Since creditors, employers, insurance companies and landlords are making decisions about you based on the information contained in your credit report, it is a good idea to verify the information. After all, your credit report will follow you throughout your life and can help or hinder you financially.
How do I get a copy of my credit report?
- The law allows you to receive a free copy of your credit report once a year. To receive a copy of your report, requests should be sent to the three major credit reporting agencies, also known as credit bureaus. You may also get your report online atwww.annualcreditreport.com. You will need to supply your complete name, address, social security number, and date of birth with your request. Each credit bureau may have different information. Therefore it is important to obtain your credit report from each of the credit bureaus. Input errors can result in incomplete, misspelled or inaccurate information. Identity theft can also cause incorrect information. Review your report carefully and dispute any errors.
What should I look for on my credit report?
- Check your personal information; look for addresses that are unfamiliar, incorrect social security number or date of birth and unknown employers. There is no need to be concerned if previous addresses, employers and any other names you have used in the past appear on your report.
- Review any public records such as liens, judgments, collections, child support debts and bankruptcy. Credit reporting agencies must correct or update erroneous or incomplete entries. If the court document itself is inaccurate, however, you might have to get the court to correct it.
- Verify your credit history for incorrect information. Look for accounts that are not yours or activity on accounts that you have not used recently. Review your balances, but remember the information may be from a month, maybe two months ago.
- Pay particular attention to the inquiries section of your credit report. Unauthorized entries, other than routine inquiries for pre-screened credit offers could be a sign that a thief has requested credit in your name or is impersonating a business that has a legitimate right to obtain your credit report. The information they gain may allow them to access your accounts or your personal information.
What should I do if the information on my credit report is incorrect?
- If you believe there is information that is inaccurate, use the dispute form enclosed with your credit report or the dispute section of the website noted on your credit report. The credit reporting agency is required by law to investigate your dispute, make corrections as appropriate and report the results to you.
How can I use my credit report to prevent identity theft?
- Monitoring your credit report is a good start; however, there are other steps you can take. You can place a fraud alert on your credit report. A fraud alert directs lenders to verify your identity before issuing loans or credit, typically by calling you first. Creditors, however, aren't legally required to abide by, or even check for, a fraud alert.
- Maine law allows you to place a security freeze on your credit report. A security freeze goes a step further. When a freeze is in place, a lender will be told that it cannot see your credit file because you have a freeze on it. Without seeing your credit report, few lenders will issue credit. Identity thieves can be prevented from opening accounts in your name if you have placed a security freeze on your credit file. But this does not mean that you won't be able to get credit for yourself or allow potential employers to run a background check.
What can I do if I am a victim of Identity Theft?
- Notify local law enforcement. Complete a written report, and request several copies for your files (they can prove valuable when you are working with creditors).
- Notify the creditors with whom fraudulent accounts were opened, and request the accounts be closed. Send each creditor a copy of the police report.
- Place a fraud alert on your credit reports.
- Freeze your credit report ; the process is free for all Maine consumers.
- File a complaint with state regulators (www.Credit.Maine.gov for most general creditors and non-bank lenders; http://www.maine.gov/pfr/financialinstitutions/index.shtml for state-chartered banks and credit unions) and with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at:
Federal Trade Commission
Washington DC 20580