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Identity Theft What To Do
 Jun 08, 2004

Are you a victim of identity theft? Not sure what to do? There are a few things you can do to reduce the harm that can be done, and prevent further damage to your credit. This article provides steps to take if you have become a victim of identity theft.

One of the most common crimes these days is identity theft. When you are a victim of identity theft, your credit can be ruined and other consequences become very real. However, it is possible to recover from identity theft. But you have to act quickly. The quicker you act, the better you will be able to limit the damage.

Steps to take if you are a victim of identity theft

In order to limit the damage of identity theft, you need to find out quickly that you have been a victim. Carefully compare your credit card and bank statements with your own records, and check your credit report regularly. This will help you find irregularities and inaccuracies that could be red flags. When you are top of things, you will be able to catch the problem more quickly, and limit the damage that identity theft can do.

When you spot possible identity fraud, here are the steps you should take:

  1. Contact fraud divisions of credit bureaus. This is the very first thing you should do even before you call the police. You need a "fraud alert" placed on all three of your credit files. This will prevent new accounts from being opened, and it requires that creditors get direct permission from you before authorizing any new accounts. Here are the numbers you call for each of the three major credit bureaus:
         TransUnion: 800-680-7289
         Equifax: 800-525-6285
         Experian: 888-397-3742
  2. File a report with the local police department. Realize that in most cases, the police department will be unable to solve the case. However, you need to report it as a crime to provide proof to the credit bureaus and your creditors that you filed a report. Ask for a copy of the report that you can keep for your records.
  3. Call the Identity Theft Hotline. Next, you should alert the federal government so that an investigation can be opened on that level. Call 877-IDTHEFT in order to report your theft. A record will be made, that can be referred to later if necessary.
  4. Close accounts that have been opened in your name. If you did not open the account, make sure that it has been closed. Call initially, and follow up in writing. Make sure that you are clear that the account is fraudulent, and that you did not authorize it in the first place. This is very important if you want to avoid liability for charges made to the account. In the future, place passwords on accounts that you do open.
  5. Close accounts that an identity thief has accessed. Sometimes, identity fraud takes place with regard to accounts that you have open. If your checking account or credit card account (or any other account) has been compromised, you should close it immediately. Stop payment on stolen checks. Cancel ATM cards. And, as always, make it clear that the reason you are doing this (follow up in writing) is because your identity has been stolen. Also, when you open new accounts, request password authorization.
  6. Notify postmaster or postal inspector of mail identity theft. If you think that new credit cards, credit card offers or other information has been stolen through the mail, the postal inspector needs to be notified.
  7. Social Security Administration. If your Social Security Number has been stolen in order for someone else to get a job, or for some other purpose, the Social Security Administration needs to know. Make sure that your name, job and earnings are being properly recorded.
  8. Department of Motor Vehicles. Someone may use your Social Security Number to get a driver's license. If this is a concern, contact your DMV to verify the information they have on file. If your SSN is used for your driver's license number, ask that a different number be issued to you.
  9. Keep records of whom you talk to. In every step above, keep track of whom you have talked to, and the date, and what was promised to you. Keep phone numbers and customer service ID numbers. Write down reference numbers you are given. This will be important when it comes to verification later down the road.
  10. Request copies of credit reports. After you have take all of the steps above, make sure that things are returning to normal. Check your credit reports two or three months after the fraud to make sure that nothing new and unauthorized has taken place.

Remember: The faster you take these steps, the less liability you will have, and the sooner your credit can be fixed.

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