My 76-year-old mother has sent thousands of dollars to some group claiming she will make millions when they sell off Iraqi dinar.

This part of the story is sad enough. What is scary is that she sent them my siblings’ and my Social Security numbers thinking that she was leaving us a huge legacy.

Although her heart was in the right place, what does this mean for us and what can we do about it? Help!

I won’t sugar-coat it: It most likely means that your and your siblings’ identities have been stolen and are now being bought and sold on the black market.

The Better Business Bureau recommends filing a formal report with the police department in your town so you can start establishing a record of your attempts to secure your identity.

It’s highly unlikely local and state law enforcement will be able to help track down mom’s money or catch the bad guys. Your mom fell victim to international criminals who are very skilled at hiding their identities.

Check to see if there’s any damage to your credit. Go to www.annualcreditreport.com and check your credit report. Look for anything out of the ordinary. If you find something out of the ordinary, follow the instructions for disputing the file.

Now place a fraud alert on your credit reports through Experian, Transunion and Equifax. Contact any one agency to place a fraud alert, and that one is required to contact the others on your behalf.

• TransUnion: (800) 680-7289, www.transunion.com, Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790;

• Equifax: (800) 525-6285, www.equifax.com, P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241;

• Experian: (888) EXPERIAN (397-3742), www.experian.com, P.O. Box 9554, Allen, TX 75013.

For readers who haven’t experienced the possibility of identity theft but want to take a step to lock down their credit reports, contact each of the three reporting agencies and request a freeze. Visit each of the following web addresses:

http://www.experian.com/consumer/security_freeze.html

https://annualcreditreport.transunion.com/fa/securityFreeze/landing

https://www.freeze.equifax.com

Any person can freeze their credit reports. In Idaho, expect to pay $6 per freeze unless you are the victim of identity theft, in which case it’s free. 

Once the fraud alerts are posted, contact every financial institution with which you do business (banks, credit card companies, etc.), explain what happened and place fraud alerts on all your accounts. Monitor your accounts closely from here on out.

Finally, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). You’ll be calling the FTC’s Identity Theft Hotline toll-free: (877) ID-THEFT (438-4338). Or you can find it online at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/.

The Idaho Department of Finance will want to know about the Iraqi Dinar scheme. Call 332-8000.

Quick action on your part will help protect you and your money. As for your mom’s money, it’s most likely gone. I highly doubt she will see it or any kind of return.

You’ll need to take the same steps to secure her identity.

Bottom line: Time is of the essence. Act quickly.

• Dale Dixon is the president/CEO of the Better Business Bureau.  Find the BBB online at www.bbb.org or call the Idaho Press Tribune-BBB ActionLine at 947-0468.

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