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Katrina and Rita Evacuees Resource
How to Protect Your Credit

Katrina and Rita Evacuees May be at a Higher Risk for Identity Theft

The catastrophic damage to the Gulf Coast region following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita has created a new risk of identity theft.

The unique circumstance of the involuntary relocation of 300,000 persons dispossessed many of them of their property, means of providing identification, and community support for establishing identity. Unfortunately, the entire world knows that a substantial number of persons who lived along the Gulf Coast are not able to return at this time, and will be working to establish their ability to obtain credit and services far from home.

This fact makes Katrina and Rita evacuees especially vulnerable to identity theft. Prior to the storms, identity theft was already the nation's fastest growing crime with many victims only becoming aware of the problem when they attempt to gain credit and are denied. Because credit reporting agencies wrongly rely upon Social Security Numbers, birth dates, and address information for approving and verifying credit, anyone having access to this information can attempt identity theft.

If you lived in a devastated area, then you are a potential victim of identity theft.

Steps to Take to Protect Your Privacy and Credit

Never Disclose Your Social Security Number - unless it is related to getting a job, government benefits, or opening a new bank account. If asked for a Social Security Number refuse to provide one and request another means of making application for credit or services.

Never check on Applications that it is okay to "Share Your Address with Others"- When asked on forms or applications if you would like for material to be sent to you in the mail or by e-mail, always answer "No."

Get An Annual Free Copy of Your Credit Report - You are entitled by law to one copy of each of your credit reports produced by the largest credit reporting agencies. However, you should not attempt to get a free credit report by visiting any of the web sites for the credit reporting agencies. The only means of getting a free report is to visit https://www.annualcreditreport.com/cra/index.jsp or call toll free: 1-877-322-8228. Hearing impaired consumers can access our TDD service at 1-877-730-4104. This applies to everyone not just Katrina and Rita Evacuees. However, in the case of Katrina and Rita Evacuees each adults and child should order a credit report. Credit service providers have been known to extend credit to others in the name of minor children.

Request that Credit Reporting Agencies Remove Your Name From Lists - You may request that consumer credit reporting companies take your name off pre-approved, unsolicited credit and insurance offers. To find out more, please call 1–888–5OPTOUT (1–888–567–8688).

Request that the Credit Reporting Agencies Withhold Your Social Security Number - Tell the Credit Reporting Agencies not to include your Social Security Number in Credit Reports that they provide to credit grantors or others.

File a Federal Trade Commission Complaint - Immediately report if you are a victim of Identity Theft by first filing a complaint with the US Federal Trade Commission. They will provide resources and services to assist you with how to alert credit reporting agencies of the crime and what other steps you may take.

If you are a Victim of Identity Theft - Request that the Credit Reporting Agencies place a "Fraud Alert" on your credit file. This will ensure that they will take extra care to ensure that you are requesting credit and not someone else. Phone numbers to reach each of the major credit reporting companies: Equifax 800.685.1111, Experian 888.397.3742, and Trans Union 800.916.8800.

Other resources

More Information

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), Public Law No. 91-508, was enacted in 1970 to promote accuracy, fairness, and the privacy of personal information assembled by Credit Reporting Agencies (CRAs).

CRAs assemble reports on individuals for businesses, including credit card companies, banks, employers, landlords, and others. The FCRA provides important protections for credit reports, consumer investigatory reports, and employment background checks. The FCRA is a complex statute that has been significantly altered since 1970 by Congress and the courts. The Act's primary protection requires that CRAs follow "reasonable procedures" to protect the confidentiality, accuracy, and relevance of credit information. To do so, the FCRA establishes a framework of Fair Information Practices for personal information that include rights of data quality (right to access and correct), data security, use limitations, requirements for data destruction, notice, user participation (consent), and accountability.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issues commentaries on the statute, but does not engage in rulemaking for the FCRA.

CRAs may also be referred to as "credit bureaus" or "consumer reporting agencies."

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Last Updated: February 14, 2006
Page URL: http://www.epic.org/katrina/default.html