This post is a little long but please take the time to read it. The information provided will help you with resources to help protect yourself if you suspect identity theft. As we all know by now, identitity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in America. If you become a victim of identity theft, you need to act quickly. There are five immediate steps you should take and they are as follows:
1. Call any business where you know fraud took place and ask to speak to their fraud department (if they have one). Let them know that your identity was stolen and ask for your account(s) to be closed or frozen so new charges can't be added.
2. Place an initial fraud alert on your files. Contact one of the three major U.S. credit reporting companies to report yourself as a victim and to place the initial fraud alert. That one must contact the other two. Ask the credit reporting company you contacted for confirmation that this will be done.
3. Order a credit report. By law, you are entitled to a free copy of your credit report once a year from all three companies. You have to contact each individually to order a report. Review your credit report and note any unfamiliar transactions or accounts. You will need this information to give the authorities such as the FTC and the police.
4. File a complaint with the FTC. You can do this online by going to www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov or over the phone by calling 1-877-438-4338. You need to include as much information as possible and follow instructions carefully. If you filed it online, save and print out your completed complaint. This becomes your Identity Theft Affidavit. This will help you create an Identity Theft Report. Make sure you record the day you filed the complaint, complaint reference number and make copies of the affidavit. If you need to update your complaint later, call the number listed above and have your complaint number ready.
5. File a police report. Go to your local police or to the police department where the theft occurred. Bring your FTC Identity Theft Affidavit and any other proof of identity theft, proof of who you are (this can be a drivers license or government issued photo ID). Request a copy of the police report to go with your affidavit. These two together creates a Identity Theft Report. You need this to prove to businesses that you are an identity theft victim and to exercise all your rights.
After these steps are completed, there are a few more things to do to limit damage or recover from it: Close your fraudulent accounts, get the proof from them of the fraudulent activity. Get rid of fraudulent charges. Correct credit report errors and consider an extended fraud alert. An extended alert lasts for seven years. You will also be allowed two free credit reports a year. If you choose to place one, send a letter of request and a copy of your Identity Theft Report to each of the three credit reporting companies. Finally, think about a credit freeze, which restricts access to your credit report unless you temporarily lift or remove the freeze (this may cause delays or other issues when you submit requests or applications that involve your credit report).
Visit www.identitytheft.gov for specific information, sample letters to send and contact links for various situations.
The three credit reporting companies are:
Equifax - www.Equifax.com or 1-888-766-0008
Experian - www.Experian.com or 1-888-397-3742
TransUnion - www.TransUnion.com or 1-800-680-7289