Don't stay a victim after identity theft

My identity was hijacked. Unfortunately, that's an all too common occurrence in Glendale. And unfortunately in this Internet age, names and numbers are all also too readily available.

My first indication that something was amiss was when I received a letter from the Internal Revenue Service. It looked like an income tax filing under my name and numbers was being audited. I always jointly file with my husband, so I didn't understand why my filing was separated from his.

To cut to the chase, one call to the IRS — the customer service line is (800) 829-1040 — and I was told that the letter I received was called a "Questionable Refund Letter." The agent said in June a $7,000 refund had been sent in my name. The agent also said policy forbade them from telling me where it was sent. I assured the agent that I never received the money.

At that point, I decided to clear my name using my reporting skills. I would unearth one obstacle at a time and take voluminous notes. Those I share with you:

1. Go to the Glendale Police Department and file an "Identity Theft" report. When I did, the intake officer told me the department has three to four unlucky souls every day who come in with the same IRS letter I received. She also told me that the never-received refund amount was always the same — $6,000 to $7,000. These bad guys are smart. Any larger amount may send up red flags.

2. Call one of the three credit reporting agencies to place a 90-day "fraud alert" under your name. The agency you call will alert the other two credit reporting agencies. I called Equifax: (800) 525-6285. This service is automated. I didn't talk to a human being.

3. Try Social Security: (800) 772-1213. I say "try" because there's no way you can change your social security number short of being in the witness protection program. No help there.

4. The Federal Trade Commission must also be alerted: (877) 438-4338. A clerk will ask you for your police report number. Then, you will be given your own reference number.

5. The IRS: (800) 829-1040. Customer service gave me that number. These guys were the most helpful yet. Understandable, since the IRS is shelling out millions of dollars to the bad guys. That's taxpayer money.

More than likely, it will never be seen again. Ask for Form 4506. That's a "Request for Copy of [genuine] Tax Return." It costs $57 for each year requested. You will be given an address to mail your check in, made out to the U.S. Treasury. The paperwork will take up to 60 days to be sent to you.

The agent directed me to more IRS telephone numbers:

Fraud Hot Line: (800) 829-0433. That office will send you Forms 3949A, 3911 and 14039 to fill out and return.

Identity Theft Specialized Unit: (800) 908-4490. An agent will ask for another copy of Form 14039, a copy of your driver's license and police report.

The IRS means business. At all times the agents I talked to were courteous, helpful and informative. They took me seriously.

6. Last step: Use the Internet to go on That will tell you if the bad guys have ruined your credit. I have yet to take that step.

These calls took me one morning. The paperwork took about 1 ½ hours. All in all, the process took less than one day. It's well worth it. Clear up your name, and the baddies' mischief will be blunted.

An added caveat, my gas station attendant told me the same thing happened to a friend of his. That friend's family is connected to the FBI. I asked for that telephone number, yet to be called.

To sum up, don't act like a victim. Be proactive. Don't wait for your CPA to clean up the mess. Do it yourself.

RUTH SOWBY can be reached at

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