Once you have completed the four steps listed below, fill out the Kalamazoo Public Safety ID Theft Packet completely. Without this completed form, and accompanying documents, we will not be able to investigate this complaint. When you have completed this form, please bring copies of all your documentation requested in the ID Theft Complaint packet and a form of identification to Kalamazoo Public Safety, 150 E. Crosstown Parkway between the hours of 8:00am - 4:00pm and turn it over to a police officer at the Teleserve desk. This officer will initiate a police report, provide you with a case number, and forward your complaint to the Criminal Investigation Division for possible further investigation.
1. Place a fraud alert on your credit reports, and review your credit reports.
Fraud alerts can help prevent an identity thief from opening any more accounts in your name. Contact the toll-free fraud number of any of the three consumer reporting companies below to place a fraud alert on your credit report. You only need to contact one of the three companies to place an alert. The company you call is required to contact the other two, which will place an alert on their versions of your report, too. If you do not receive a confirmation from a company, you should contact that company directly to place a fraud alert.
Once you place the fraud alert in your file, you're entitled to order one free copy of your credit report from each of the three consumer reporting companies, and, if you ask, only the last four digits of your Social Security number will appear on your credit reports. Once you get your credit reports, review them carefully. Look for inquiries from companies you haven't contacted, accounts you didn't open, and debts on your accounts that you can't explain. Check that information, like your Social Security number, address(es), name or initials, and employers are correct. If you find fraudulent or inaccurate information, get it removed. See section 4 below. When you correct your credit report, use an Identity Theft Report with a cover letter explaining your request, to get the fastest and most complete results. Continue to check your credit reports periodically, especially for the first year after you discover the identity theft, to make sure no new fraudulent activity has occurred.
2. Close the accounts that you know, or believe, have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.
Call and speak with someone in the security or fraud department of each company. Follow up in writing, and include copies (NOT originals) of supporting documents. It's important to notify credit card companies and banks in writing. Send your letters by certified mail, return receipt requested, so you can document what the company received and when. Keep a file of your correspondence and enclosures.
When you open new accounts, use new Personal Identification Numbers (PINs) and passwords. Avoid using easily available information like your mother's maiden name, your birth date, the last four digits of your Social Security number or your phone number, or a series of consecutive numbers.
If the identity thief has made charges or debits on your accounts, or has fraudulently opened accounts, ask the company for the forms to dispute those transactions:
Once you have resolved your identity theft dispute with the company, ask for a letter stating that the company has closed the disputed accounts and has discharged the fraudulent debts. This letter is your best proof if errors relating to this account reappear on your credit report or you are contacted again about the fraudulent debt.
3. File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
You can file a complaint with the FTC using the online complaint form www.ftc.gov/idtheft; or call the FTC's Identity Theft Hotline, toll-free: 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338); TTY: 1-866-653-4261; or write Identity Theft Clearinghouse, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20580. Be sure to call the Hotline to update your complaint if you have any additional information or problems.
By sharing your identity theft complaint with the FTC, you will provide important information that can help law enforcement officials across the nation track down identity thieves and stop them. The FTC can refer victims' complaints to other government agencies and companies for further action, as well as investigate companies for violations of laws the agency enforces.
Additionally, you can provide a printed copy of your online Complaint form to the police to incorporate into their police report. The printed FTC ID Theft Complaint, in conjunction with the police report, can constitute an Identity Theft Report and entitle you to certain protections. This Identity Theft Report can be used to (1) permanently block fraudulent information from appearing on your credit report; (2) ensure that debts do not reappear on your credit report; (3) prevent a company from continuing to collect debts that result from identity theft; and (4) place an extended fraud alert on your credit report.
4. Consumer Reporting Company Obligations
Consumer reporting companies will block fraudulent information from appearing on your credit report if you take the following steps: Send them a copy of an Identity Theft Report and a letter telling them what information is fraudulent. The letter also should state that the information does not relate to any transaction that you made or authorized. In addition, provide proof of your identity that may include your Social Security number, name, address, and other personal information requested by the consumer reporting company.
The consumer reporting company has four business days to block the fraudulent information after accepting your identity theft report. It also must tell the information provider that it has blocked the information. The consumer reporting company may refuse to block the information or remove the block if, for example, you have not told the truth about your identity theft. If the consumer reporting company removes the block or refuses to place the block, it must let you know.
Important Web Sites:
PREVENTION for Financial Thefts:
Identity Theft Prevention
Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in America. It can occur when a criminal steals personal identifying information such as name, birth date, Social Security number or your mother's maiden name and uses it for their own gain. These thefts can occur through lost or stolen credit or debit cards, non-secure online transactions, personal information recovered from your garbage, and most frequently, stolen mail from your mailbox.
BASIC SAFETY TIPS
DISCOVERING ID THEFT
ATM Safety Tips
Purse and Wallet Theft Prevention
Unfortunately, there is no style of handbag or wallet that cannot be taken. There is no foolproof way to carry possessions. If the robber wants your valuables, chances are he/she will get them. However, there are good strategies to reduce your risk of becoming a victim.
SPOT AND AVOID POTENTIAL TROUBLE
MINIMIZE THE OPPORTUNITY FOR LOSS
MINIMIZE THE OPPORTUNITY FOR INJURY
SAFELY CARRYING VALUABLES
THEFTS AND PICKPOCKETS
RESPONDING TO A CONFRONTATION
Door to door scams are one of the biggest crimes against seniors, especially as the weather gets nicer.
Scam artists specifically target older people that own their own homes and live in middle income neighborhoods. There is more money here than in lower income neighborhoods but there is also a lack of coordinated services from contracted service professionals.
Detective Mark Rogers of the Greenville IN police department said these scammers are targeting seniors in particular. They try and sell things like home repair, driveway repair, chimney cleaning, gutter cleaning and tree trimming," Rogers said, noting that selling door-to-door requires a license in many municipalities, and home repair almost always requires a license.
"They first try for cash, but even if they cannot get that, they try for a check that is personally made out. Then they just go right down to the bank and cash the check," he said. "You'll never see them again."
In one recent case, a senior resident agreed to have his front porch replaced and agreed to pay for materials after the job was started. So the scammer complied by using a sledge hammer to break up the porch, collected the money to go get materials, but never returned.
"But don't let them intimidate you," Rogers said. "People who are perpetrating a scam can be forceful and try to talk residents into paying with cash or with a check up front", Rogers continued.
They will also often threaten the resident with legal action or threaten to tear up the property if the senior doesn't pay.
In one North Carolina case, the contractor didn't quote an amount to the older home owner for cutting up two 8 inch around and 30 foot trees that had come down during a hurricane. But when the job was finished, they'd left all the cuttings strewn across the yard and handed the woman a bill for $14,000. She of course refused to pay until they threatened her property and to sue her.
Fortunately in this case, the woman called relatives who called the police, and the perpetrators were arrested before they could even cash the check.
This is not always the case however. In many cases where an older person is the victim of a scam, they are too embarrassed to admit they were swindled, and the crime is never even reported.
With tree trimming, the scammer might break a tree branch off of a tree in someone's yard and then bring the tree branch to the door to convince the resident they need their branches trimmed immediately, he said.
Another trick is to tell the resident they need to have their chimney cleaned yearly, and then just spread some soot around to make it look like the chimney was cleaned, Rogers explained.
Scammers will often use cheap or inappropriate materials if they do any work at all. One senior recently reported a scam where the salesperson promised to resurface the driveway for $900, a very nice sounding price to the senior who had recently been quoted over $2000 for the same thing. Not being able to get outside however, the senior couldn't tell that the scammer had actually spread used motor oil over the driveway to give it a dark look, rather than resurface it.
The affinity scam
Another approach is called 'the affinity approach'. The scammer gets the names of several neighborhood residents and then goes to other houses to tell them about the supposed work they've done, and how much the other people liked it.
The theory is that people assume that if the work was done for the neighbors and they are happy, then that qualifies as a recommendation. Never mind the fact that this supposed work and the satisfaction is being reported by the contractor, not the neighbor.
In some cases, this is taken one step further by giving two names that don't exist on a long street, several blocks away. Knowing that nobody knows everyone, the resident assumes these are simply names they just don't know.
Tips to avoid door-to-door scammers:
1) Do not do business with door to door sales people unless you can verify that they have a local office. Sure, there are legitimate businesses that don't have an office, but remember that this is your money they are talking about and you need to have reasonable proof of the validity of the person at the door.
2) Contractors should always be able to prove that they have a contractor's license. If someone cannot provide a license, don't do business with them. If they say they don't need one for the type of work they do, don't do business with them until you know this for a fact.
3) Get references that are at least several months old and call them. If someone has a bad record, references are hard for them to come up with. Be sure that you call the references on your phone and make the phone calls in your own time. You want to be sure that you are contacting real people, not partners of the scammer.
4) Don't do business right on the spot. If someone tells you that you have a problem with your property that needs to be fixed, get a second opinion from several other contractors. There is nothing so urgent about your property that it must be handled right now. Anyone that tells you otherwise is probably attempting to scam you into a project that you don't need. If you see that you need a repair, that is one thing. If they are trying to scare you into it, that's another.
5) Don't be pressured to sign right now or lose the "fantastic deal". This is a common tactic of scammers to stop you from checking them out, looking for a better price, or giving you time to reconsider your decision. High pressure salespeople should be avoided. You simply don't need to deal with them and you can often get just as good a price later as you can right now.
6) Don't make the check out in the name of a person, no matter what kind of deal they offer. Many scammers will use this tactic to make it easier for them to cash the check. Many people (and even legitimate business owners) will ask you to make the check out in their own name or to pay in cash so that they can avoid paying taxes. While the lower price might be a temptation, you can also look tainted if the work isn't done or isn't done to your requirements.
7) Remember that a receipt is worth nothing unless the business is valid and reputable. Scammers will give you any receipt that you want, but if they are gone, that receipt is worthless.
8) Never pay for services in cash. Cash can be spent immediately and is not traceable. It is hard for anyone to just cash a check made out to a business right out of your account and they must generally be deposited. This means that you at least have a few hours to stop payment on the check if you find something is wrong. Banks also have consumer fraud measures and can often track someone who has committed a fraud.
A better option yet if the business provides it, is to pay via credit card. Your credit card service will allow you to dispute a charge even up to 30 days after the charge is made. Obviously though, most scammers don't take credit cards.
9) Don't be afraid to offend someone by not doing business with them. Scammers will pretend that you are personally insulting their credibility and honesty if you want to check them out. They have a lot of well-rehearsed psychological tricks that they employ to make you feel like a heel because you want to exercise reasonable business procedures. Assume that anyone that acts offended because you want to check them out, is probably nothing more than a thief. Get them out of your house and don't deal with them for any reason, even if they apologize.
Real business people want to do business with you and understand if they haven't met your comfort level yet. They aren't afraid to prove themselves and they deal with this all day long. Only scammers get offended at being checked out.
10) If you don't feel comfortable, walk away. It's just that simple. Trust your initial reactions and if the person isn't credible, if their story doesn't seem right, if the deal is too good, if they are high pressured, if they won't listen, if they tell you something is wrong but don't want other opinions on it, just don't do business with them for any reason.
11) Just because the person seems nice and honest, doesn't mean they are. Scammers aren't very successful if they look and sound like liars. Scammers are very good at tricking people and they have been known to trick smarter and dumber people than you.
12) Make sure that you sign an agreement and that everything you agree to is in that agreement.
13) Before you sign a contract, give it at least a day to think it over. Call friends and relatives and pass the idea by them. Doing so doesn't mean you aren't intelligent. It means that you are cautious and a savvy shopper.
14) If you smell a rat, call your local BBB and police department to ask if there have been any complaints of this type or against this company. Even if they don't have a report against this person, it doesn't mean they are legitimate. All it means is that they haven't been reported... YET!
a) There is nothing so urgent that it cannot be dealt with tomorrow. If you didn't know you needed it an hour ago, you don't have to have it right away
b) There is no deal so good that it cannot be achieved tomorrow.
c) There are plenty of businesses that want your business. The person in front of you is just one of them.
3. Bad Checks and Non-Sufficient Funds Checks
Make the Bad Check notice and NSF Account Closed form forms also available on Line.
Kalamazoo Public Safety
4. RESOURCES OR LINKS
Free Annual Credit Report
You are entitled to one free credit disclosure in a 12 month period. To request this free credit report, visit Central Source at www.annualcreditreport.com, call toll-free (877) 322-8228, or complete the Annual Credit Report Request form and mail to Annual Credit Report Request
Social Security Administration
OPT OUT of Pre-Approved Credit Offers
Remove Your Name From Mail and Phone Lists
Useful Web Sites