Identity Theft Information
Identity Theft & Security Breach Information
Welcome to the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs identity theft information webpage. Identity theft doesn’t have to be inevitable. There are things that you can do to reduce the chances that you become a victim and to minimize the damage should it happen to you. If you’re a business owner and would like more information on how the Hawaii’s identity theft laws will affect your business, click here.
Identity Theft Warning Signs
- Unauthorized charges on your credit card
- Receiving credit cards that you did not seek or apply for
- Missing credit card bills
- Calls or letters from debt collectors or businesses about merchandise you did not buy or services you did not authorize
- Being denied credit or offered credit at less favorable terms for no apparent reason
- Unauthorized credit cards or charges on your credit report
Identity theft is a serious crime. It’s happening more and more frequently around the world, across the nation, and here in Hawaii. It’s not a mere inconvenience. People whose identities have been stolen can spend months or years – and their hard-earned money – cleaning up the mess thieves have made of their good name and credit record. In the meantime, victims may lose opportunities for jobs, loans, education, housing or cars, or even get arrested for crimes they didn’t commit.
Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information such as your name, Social Security number, credit card number or other identifying information, without your permission, to commit fraud or other crimes.
Your personal information can be stolen or obtained from businesses or government entities you have patronized, if a business or government entity suffers a security breach. Security breaches can occur for a variety of reasons:
- Hackers, or unauthorized access to personal information
- Accidental release or display of information
- Theft of personal information by a business’s employee or contractor
- Stolen laptops, computers, or other equipment
In the event of a security breach, if your personal information has been lost or stolen, you may be notified directly by the breached business or government entity, or, in the case of large security breaches, the notification may be via press releases and news media.
TIPS ON PROTECTING YOURSELF BEFORE A SECURITY BREACH – CREDIT FREEZES
If you’re concerned about identity theft, those reported mega-data breaches, or someone gaining access to your credit report without your permission, you might consider placing a credit freeze on your report.
What is a credit freeze?
Also known as a security freeze, this tool lets you restrict access to your credit report, which in turn makes it more difficult for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name. That’s because most creditors need to see your credit report before they approve a new account. If they can’t see your file, they may not extend the credit.
How do I place a freeze on my credit reports?
You’ll need to supply your name, address, date of birth, Social Security number and other personal information. There is a fee to place or remove a credit freeze for Hawaii residents (see above), unless you are an ID theft victim and can provide proof.
After receiving your freeze request, each credit reporting company will send you a confirmation letter containing a unique PIN (personal identification number) or password. Keep the PIN or password in a safe place. You will need it if you choose to lift the freeze.
An in-depth guide to place a credit freeze is available here.
Does a credit freeze affect my credit score?
No. A credit freeze does not affect your credit score.
A credit freeze also does not:
• prevent you from getting your free annual credit report
• keep you from opening a new account, applying for a job, renting an apartment, or buying insurance. But if you’re doing any of these, you’ll need to lift the freeze temporarily, either for a specific time or for a specific party, say, a potential landlord or employer. The cost and lead times to lift a freeze vary, so it’s best to check with the credit reporting company in advance.
• prevent a thief from making charges to your existing accounts. You still need to monitor all bank, credit card and insurance statements for fraudulent transactions.
Can anyone see my credit report if it is frozen?
Certain entities still will have access to it.
• your report can be released to your existing creditors or to debt collectors acting on their behalf.
• government agencies may have access in response to a court or administrative order, a subpoena, or a search warrant.
How do I lift a freeze?
A freeze remains in place until you ask the credit reporting company to temporarily lift it or remove it altogether. A credit reporting company must lift a freeze no later than three business days after getting your request. The cost to lift a freeze varies by state.
If you opt for a temporary lift because you are applying for credit or a job, and you can find out which credit reporting company the business will contact for your file, you can save some money by lifting the freeze only at that particular company.
What’s the difference between a credit freeze and a fraud alert?
A credit freeze locks down your credit. A fraud alert allows creditors to get a copy of your credit report as long as they take steps to verify your identity.
Tips on Protecting Yourself Following a Security Breach
- Contact your creditors, including credit card companies, banks, credit unions, and other lenders, to determine whether there is any suspicious or unauthorized activity that has occurred on your accounts
- Contact any of the three Credit Reporting Agencies to place a Fraud Alert on your credit report. A Fraud Alert does not block potential new credit, but places a comment on your credit history to alert creditors to contact you prior to opening a new account. Once you have contacted any one of the three Credit Reporting Agencies the other two will be notified that you have placed a Fraud Alert on your credit report. (See credit reporting agency contact information, below)
- Once you have placed a Fraud Alert on your credit report, you will be entitled to a free copy of your credit report. The Credit Reporting Agencies will send you a letter telling you how to order your free credit report. Review your credit reports carefully for suspicious activity or charges.
- Be alert! The first year following a security breach is when your stolen personal information is most likely to be used by ID thieves.
Credit Reporting Agencies
- Equifax: 1-800-525-6285; equifax.com ; P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
- Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742); experian.com ; P.O. Box 9532, Allen, TX 75013
- TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289; transunion.com ; Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790
All consumers can obtain a free annual credit report from each of the major Credit Reporting Agencies, regardless of whether they have been victims of identity theft. Call 1-877-322-8228, or request one online at www.annualcreditreport.com .
Identity Theft & Security Breach Links
- Free resources on identity theft
- Sample letters and forms for victims of identity theft