While identity theft is something that none of us like to think about, the fact is that it’s an all-too common crime. An estimated 19 people fall victim to identity theft every minute, making identity theft the fastest growing crime epidemic today.
We love the way the digitized world works. We have many luxuries and conveniences today, but there are risks.
Most of the stories we hear about, and probably the ones you hear are about people who have already had their identity stolen. The trouble is that when you realize something has happened, it’s not always clear what step to take next.
If you have recently had your identity stolen, it’s important to take steps as soon as possible to prevent fraudulent activity. The sooner you get started, the sooner you will be able to have damaging fraudulent information removed from your credit report, stop charges to credit cards and bank accounts, and end any transactions that may have been started.
If you suspect that you are the victim of identity theft, here’s how you can get on the road to recovering your identity …
Step One: Contact the Three Major Credit Bureaus
First, contact the fraud department of the three main credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit files.
The credit bureaus will then issue a fraud alert for your accounts. This will alert creditors to contact you before opening any accounts, or making any changes to existing accounts in your name. This will help to deter a fraudster from opening additional accounts in your name, or making changes on your behalf without your knowledge.
The three major credit bureaus are:
P.O. Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374
P.O. Box 2002
Allen, TX 75013
P.O. Box 1000
Chester, PA 19022
Also, be sure to request credit reports from each of the credit bureaus, and review them carefully–checking to ensure that your personal information such as your name, address, and Social Security number is correct. Be sure to look out for any accounts that you have not opened, or suspicious activity. If you notice anything, be sure to report to the credit bureau that issued the credit report immediately. You are able to obtain one free copy of your credit report from each bureau when you place a fraud alert.
Step Two: Create an Identity Theft Report
By creating an identity theft report, you can help remove fraudulent information from your credit report and stop companies from collecting debts that result from the identity theft. Your identity theft report will consists of two parts: filing a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and filing a complaint with the local police.
- File a Report With the FTC
The FTC maintains a database of identity theft cases that are used by law enforcement for investigations.
- File a Police Report
Once you have filed a complaint with the FTC, you should also file a police report with your local police. Be sure to provide them with as much information as possible. Obtain a copy of the police report as creditors, among others, will want to see a copy of this report. Take note of the law enforcement agents that you speak with, as this may be valuable information for filing additional reports.
Step Three: Close All Fraudulent and Compromised Accounts
Once the reports have been filed you should be sure to cancel any credit cards that may have been compromised, and close down any accounts that you believe have been tampered with, or opened fraudulently with your stolen identity.
If you suspect that you have had your identity stolen, it’s important to take steps immediately to report the problem and work to correct it. If caught early enough, most cases of identity theft can be resolved.
Identity theft is never pleasant, but with it being more common we want to help you to make any issue as easy to deal with as possible!
Image: Thirumurugan P