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Identity Theft and Fraud

Identity theft most commonly occurs online, but there are other ways thieves can get your personal information:

  • Phone books
  • Driver licenses
  • Pre-approved credit offers
  • Credit cards/receipts
  • Birth certificates
  • Credit reports
  • Personal checks
  • Social Security numbers

Over 500,000 Americans become victims of identity theft annually, costing them and financial institutions approximately $750 million. Once victimized, it could take months or even years to clear one's credit rating. Taking the following steps will help avoid identity theft, along with the aggravation and expense that follow.

How to Protect Yourself

  • Guard personal information. Shred old checks and receipts, bank and credit card statements, credit card applications, credit cards, insurance forms, and any other documents with personal or account information that you are discarding.
  • Protect your mail. Use a locking mailbox. Deposit payments at the local post office or hand deliver them to a mail carrier.
  • Never keep an ATM card and the PIN (Personal Identification Number) together. Do not allow anyone to help you enter a PIN or conduct a transaction at an ATM.
  • Never allow your credit card number to be recorded on a check. Florida law prohibits this as a mandatory practice. Carry only those credit cards that you actually need.
  • Protect your driver license and social security number. Notify the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) and/or the Social Security Administration if either of these documents is lost or stolen.
  • Review monthly bank and credit card statements carefully each month. Report any suspicious activity on an account immediately. Be aware of when you regularly receive your statements. Contact the company if one is not received when expected.

What to do if Your Identity is Stolen

  • Notify your bank and/or credit card companies immediately. Also notify the three credit bureaus (listed below), and the police. Contact the creditor with whom your name has been fraudulently used. Make them aware that you too are a victim of the fraudulent activity.
  • Keep detailed records, including dates, times, and names of previous persons notified, and the results of the conversations. Note any tracking or complaint number issued to your case. Follow up all company notifications with written correspondence. Keep copies of all correspondence.
  • Check current accounts for a recent change of address request. Notify the Postal Inspector if you learn that an identity thief has filed a change of address form for your mail.

Fraud is one of the most prevalent forms of crime in today's society. According the Federal Bureau of Investigations 2007 Mortgage Fraud Report, the State of Florida is among the top 10 mortgage fraud areas in the country, with Miami-Dade County leading the state in fraud loans.

Mortgage fraud is defined as a material misstatement, misrepresentation or omission relied upon by an underwriter or lender to fund, purchase or insure a loan. There are two types of Mortgage Fraud: fraud for property and fraud for profit. Fraud for property, also known as fraud for housing, usually involves the borrower as the perpetrator on a single loan. Fraud for profit involves industry professionals. There are generally multiple loan transactions with several financial institutions involved.


Additional Identity Theft and Fraud Resources