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Kokua Line

By June Watanabe

Sunday, July 14, 2002


Take steps to stop
ID theft if a driver’s
license is lost


Question: I recently lost my driver's license, which has my Social Security number on it. Who should be notified or informed to prevent any identity theft?

Answer: Because identity theft is such a prevalent and growing crime, there are many sources of information on what to do to prevent becoming a victim as well as what steps to take if you are victimized.

The Identity Theft Resource Center is a nationwide nonprofit organization aimed at fighting identity theft (P.O. Box 26833, San Diego, CA 92196; phone, 858-693-7935; online, www.idtheftcenter.org). The Federal Trade Commission also has a wealth of information and tips on identity theft on its Web site: www.consumer.gov/idtheft. You can also ask for a free copy of "ID Theft: When Bad Things Happen to Your Good Name" by writing to Identity Theft Clearinghouse, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20580.

Closer to home, we asked Honolulu Police Detective Letha DeCaires, coordinator of the Honolulu CrimeStoppers program, for advice on what you should do.

She noted that the CrimeStoppers Web site, www.crimestoppers-honolulu.org, also has posted information. Click on "tips," then "identity theft."

Even though you said you lost your driver's license, you should file a police report and keep the report number and report in your files in case a bank or credit card company needs proof of the loss or theft.

When you go to the driver's licensing bureau to get a duplicate license, ask the clerk to check if anyone else has tried to make a duplicate. In some instances, DeCaires said, police have been able to catch people who have put their own photos on licenses with stolen personal information.

You should also contact the three major national credit reporting bureaus.

It's just a good practice to do a credit check at least once a year anyway, DeCaires said.

The phone numbers for the fraud divisions of the three major agencies are: TransUnion, 800-680-7289 (www.tuc.com); Experian, 888-397-3742 (www.experian.com); and Equifax, 800-525-6285 (www.equifax.com).

You should flag your reports, asking that creditors contact you before opening any new account.

"In the meantime, (you) can see if anyone used (your) credit or opened up a line of credit," DeCaires said. "The most common places people are opening up a line of credit when they steal driver's licenses is on the Internet."

That's because all someone needs to do that is someone's name, Social Security number and address.

You need to act quickly and be vigilant, DeCaires said, because "often people will lose thousands of dollars and their credit before they realize" what is happening.

However, she said, don't forget that you've put a flag on your account; otherwise, a year from now, you might have trouble getting credit. "There are many different flags people can put on" as safeguards, such as asking to be called first, and/or requiring passwords or photo identification, she said. But in so doing, consumers should be aware that they "are creating extra work for themselves. It's a good thing, but don't forget about it or complain about it later."

Also, you should contact your financial institutions and tell them you are not allowing any electronic transfer of funds, DeCaires said. Check all your bank and credit card statements because "with a name, Social Security number and address, you can do a lot of different things to move (money) around."

Mahalo

Belatedly, to the unknown person who returned my Nokia cell phone to the Ala Moana California Pizza Kitchen in mid-June. In my 50-plus years of living in Hawaii, I've misplaced my purse, charge card (twice) and now my cell phone. They were all returned intact. According to headlines, we have theft problems in Hawaii. Thankfully, we have even more honest individuals here. -- Forgetful Jones

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