Tips for Working with Your Bank If You’re an Identity Theft Victim

August 31st, 2009 Karen Lodrick

In 2006, my bank provided an identity thief posing as me, debit card approval through an unauthorized phone number. Within a few days, the thief wiped out my checking account, stealing $8,000.00 before I realized what happened. For six months, the identity thief continued to victimize me. I lost $22,000.00, before I managed to catch the thief and stop the rampage. Yet, my bank was accusing me of forging my own identity.

It’s dreadful enough when you find out you are a victim of identity theft, but it adds insult to injury when your bank treats you like a criminal.

Did you know that many of the largest banks in the United States are frequently targeted by identity thieves? (Fig. 1) Fortunately, what I learned during my personal experience dealing with my bank after becoming a victim of identity theft may assist you if you’re ever a victim.

 karens-graphicFigure 1:  Courtesy of Chris Hoofnagle and the Berkeley Center for Law and Technology

 

Tips for working with your bank if you’re an identity theft victim:

TIP #1 – IMMEDIATELY CLOSE ALL COMPROMISED ACCOUNTS

If your bank doesn’t automatically provide you with a new account number,   insist that they do so.  In order to get any money reimbursed, you will need an account number that has not been compromised.

TIP #2 – GET PROTECTION ON ALL ACCOUNTS

Insist that your bank place an “Identity Theft Warning” message and password protection on all your accounts. I found it easy to do this for phone inquiries, but difficult for in-person inquiries. So when I thought I was safe because I had a new password-protected bank account, the identity thief managed to withdraw money in person from different bank branches. Through perseverance, I was able to locate a bank manager who was able to place a universal warning on all my accounts. I believe this helped me eventually track down my identity thief. 

TIP #3 – ASK QUESTIONS

Knowledge is power. If you don’t understand the bank’s identity theft protocol, ask questions about it. It’s important to know what the bank is requesting of you. Understanding the bank’s procedures will help you deal with this crime. If you don’t understand the bank’s procedure or don’t think the procedure is useful in your particular circumstance, ask further questions and/or request additional assistance.  I was able to get a new protocol put into place for my accounts (see Tip #2).

TIP #4 – KEEP RECORDS AND A JOURNAL

Create a file for your identity theft documents. Log all your conversations and transactions. Make sure to get full names of the people you talk to, keep track of all dates and times (noting how much time you spent dealing with each issue), and be sure to keep track of the amount of money lost or stolen including your time spent to recover. Creating these records will help you recall what happened, should you need to at a later date.  Most importantly, if you ever go to court because your identity was stolen, you will have a clear record. Plus, you may be able to claim the loss on your taxes.

 TIP #5 – MONITOR YOUR ACCOUNTS REGULARLY

Keep an eye on your bank accounts. Call your bank immediately if you notice a discrepancy, no matter how small as you may have a limited period of time to file a complaint. I regularly review my bank activity online. It saves a time and, if your mail has been stolen or redirected by an identity thief, you may not get your bank statements in time.  Remember to be smart when banking online. Always log in using your bank’s official URL and never log-in by clicking on a link provided in an email or advertisement. Always log out when finished and close the browser window. Empty cookies from your computer system regularly and never allow the browser to remember your password (type in your password every time).

 TIP #6 – KEEP PERSONAL INFORMATION OFF YOUR CHECKS

All you need are your first initials and last name on your checks. Your full name, address, Social Security number and phone number are not necessary. The bank knows how to handle your checks. The less your personal information is out there for a thief, the better. If a crook can’t match an exact name to a bank account, he/she will be less likely to use it.

As an identity theft victim, dealing with your bank may be a challenge.  You may have to repeat the facts of your case to several different bank officials until the bank has a grasp of your specific circumstances.  This can be frustrating. If possible, find one person that can handle your claim as quickly as possible.  Ask to speak to a supervisor if you feel you are not getting the help you need or if someone treats you poorly. And trust that your situation will eventually get resolved.

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