ID Theft as Abuse in a Domestic Violence Situation
Domestic abuse situations are often about power and control. One form of control many are not aware of is an abuser using identity theft to ensure their victim cannot escape to start a new life. Additionally, some abusers may steal their victim’s personal information to impersonate them on social media in order to humiliate them or put them in danger. For domestic violence victims, the theft of their or their children’s identities can have a deep, lasting effect on their lives.
Seeking safe shelter, securing a new job and even opening a new bank account can be very difficult for domestic violence victims whose abusers have used identity theft to ruin their credit or good name. Any safety planning should also include keeping personal information (as well as children’s information) safe. This includes protecting social security numbers, birth certificates and account information.
Steps to Take to Protect Your Identity
¨ Relocate. Moving across town, across the state or across the country puts physical distance between you and the abuser. Be sure to obtain an unlisted phone number and be aware of the Full Faith and Credit provisions in your restraining order, which make the order valid when you travel to another state or tribal jurisdiction.
¨ Apply to the address confidentiality program in your state. These types of programs allow individuals who have experienced domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking or other types of crime to receive mail at a confidential address, while keeping their actual address undisclosed. Rules and eligibility vary from state to state. Click here to see a list of address confidentiality programs in states across the country.
¨ Open a post office box to receive mail. Abusers may be able to open fraudulent credit cards by responding to credit card offers received in the mail. A post office box may prevent this if only you have access to it. Be wary of the confidentiality policies of non-government post office box centers such as Mail Boxes, Etc and the fact that it may not be possible to remain anonymous in rural towns while accessing the post office.
¨ Protect your incoming and outgoing mail. Shred all credit card offers that come in the mail along with other documents that have your name, address and/or social security number on them. Mail bills and other sensitive documents directly from the post office instead of from the mailbox on your porch or at the end of your driveway. Call 1-800-5OPT-OUT to stop receiving credit card offers in the mail.
¨ Guard your social security number. Do not use your social security number as a general ID, PIN or password. Request to have your social security number removed from documents you receive in the mail and ID cards for health insurance, driving, work, etc Click here to read about changing your social security number.
¨ Check your credit report. The best way to determine if someone has committed fraud against you is to check your credit report with all three credit bureaus at least once per year. Visitwww.annualcreditreport.com to obtain a free yearly credit report. You can also make a request to have a fraud alert placed on your credit report. Click here to find out how to contact the credit bureaus.
¨ Report suspected fraud. Contact local law enforcement if you know of or suspect fraud and ask to file a report. Check and/or close accounts you believe have been tampered. File a report with the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-ID-THEFT and the Social Security Administration Fraud Hotline at 1-800-269-0271. File copies of police reports with credit bureaus.
¨ Protect information you give out. Never give any identifying information over the phone or through email or the internet unless you initiated the call or have verification that the website or email communication is secure.
Fact Source: Identity Theft Network
Fact Source: National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
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