National Protect Your Identity Week – First Steps for Victims
Identity theft is commonly one of the fastest growing crimes in America. It is defined as someone using another person’s name and identifying information to steal an identity. When the crime is discovered, the crooks move on, leaving their victims to deal with the fraudulent debts.
If you are a victim, taking the following steps immediately will help you reduce both the monetary damage and time spent cleaning up your credit.
- Contact the three major credit reporting bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) and request a fraud alert be placed on your credit file. You are entitled to a free credit report when you place a fraud alert.
- Consider going a step farther and placing a security freeze on your credit file. This prevents new credit accounts being opened in your name by making your credit file off-limits to anyone. That includes the good and bad, as it applies to prospective creditors as well as crooks.
- Order your free credit report from each bureau, and examine it carefully for fraud. Send a written dispute to any bureau where there are errors on your report due to fraud.
- Continue to check your reports periodically to make sure no new activity has occurred.
- Contact all creditors, starting with the accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently. Close those accounts, even if you originally opened them.
- When establishing new accounts, select new PIN numbers and passwords.
- File a police report, as you may need this documentation to prove the theft.
- To permanently remove fraudulent information from your credit reports, send a copy of your police report, along with your written dispute, to the credit reporting bureaus.
- File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) online at www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov, or through their Identity Theft Hotline at (877) 438-4338. Print a copy of your ID Theft Complaint.
- Victim Resources from the Identity Theft Resource Center