The Iowa Identity Theft Victim Assistance Coalition has unveiled a new handout designed specifically for victims of identity theft in Iowa. The coalition is a public, nonprofit partnership of 21 Iowa law enforcement and other organizations.
Among other things, the handout’s advice includes immediate steps victims should take such as reporting the problem to law enforcement. The handout also covers longer-term actions victims should consider such as closely reviewing all future bills and financial account statements for signs of fraud.
Coalition Director Bill Brauch said that coalition members wanted to provide advice that was short, thorough and easy to understand.
“Our members did a great job in designing the handout,” Brauch said. “It’s already being used by our members throughout the state and we are actively promoting its use by others, including municipal police departments, the Iowa Area Agencies on Aging, constituent service offices of Iowa’s members of Congress and others.”
Brauch noted that the handout can be given to victims online or in person on a single, two-sided sheet.
“This gets information into victims’ hands right away and gives them solid advice so they can start immediately doing what they need to do to clear up their accounts and records,” he said.
Brauch said that the “immediate steps” include reporting the fraud to the company or agency where the fraud occurred.
“Nothing is more important that preventing any losses right away,” Brauch said.
Brauch noted that the next step is vital.
“Every identity theft victim needs to file a report with the Federal Trade Commission by going to www.Identitytheft.gov,” Brauch said.
The FTC’s website offers victims hands-on tools, including a victim report to present to law enforcement and to creditors, model form letters to send to lenders and credit card issuers, and further advice. Brauch noted another immediate step is for victims to file a report with their local police or sheriff’s offices.
After completing immediate steps, the handout recommends victims:
• Freeze their credit reports;
• Review their credit reports to ensure they are accurate;
• Dispute in writing any inaccuracies on their credit reports; and,
• Consider seeking an Identity Theft “Passport” from the Attorney General’s Crime Victim Assistance Division as further proof they are victims.
The handout also includes vital contact information victims may need to reach the right folks at the Attorney General’s Office, the Iowa Department of Revenue, the Social Security Administration and other agencies. Finally, it urges all victims to keep good notes and to make copies of everything they send in dealing with the identity theft.
“Victims often don’t know where to turn for help,” Brauch said. “Using the advice on the coalition’s handout will help them focus on the most important steps to take, and in the right order, so they can minimize the time and cost of recovering from identity theft.”
The members of the Iowa Identity Theft Victim Assistance Coalition include: AARP Iowa, Children and Families of Iowa, Iowa Attorney General’s Office – Consumer Protection Division, Iowa Attorney General’s Office – Crime Victim Assistance Division, Iowa Bankers Association, Iowa County Attorneys Association, Iowa Credit Union Foundation, Iowa Department of Corrections - Office of Victim and Restorative Justice Programs, Iowa Department of Revenue, Iowa Department of Transportation, Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs, Iowa Insurance Division, Iowa Legal Aid, Iowa Office of the Chief Information Officer, Iowa Organization for Victim Assistance, Iowa State Bank, Iowa State Sheriffs’ and Deputies’ Association, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, Polk County Attorney’s Association, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Iowa, and the University of Northern Iowa.
The Coalition was formed through a 2017 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, Justice Assistance Programs, and is as part of the National Identity Theft Victim Assistance Network overseen by the Department of Justice. The grant establishing the Iowa Coalition was made to the Iowa Organization for Victim Assistance, a non-profit organization that has been active since 1983 in advocating for the rights of Iowa crime victims.