Wednesday, 18 August 2010 22:59
If you believe that you’ve been the victim of identity theft or similar fraud, you need to act immediately. Your first step is to verify that such a crime has taken place, and the easiest way to do that is to obtain a copy of your credit report. Americans are entitled to one free credit report a year. Your report will show any accounts that have been opened under your name. If you see accounts that you have not opened, you are probably a victim of identity theft.
Call the Police
Identity theft is a crime, and should be reported to your local law enforcement agency. Be sure to get copies of the police report, because you’ll need it when dealing with some creditors (and possibly, the courts).
Get a Fraud Alert
Because it can take weeks for fraudulent activity to show up on your credit report, tell the credit bureaus that you want to place a “fraud alert.” Any financial institution or business that is opening an account under your name will be notified of the possible fraud, so they can verify your identity. The initial fraud alert lasts just 90 days, but you can (and should) request an extension for a full seven years if you have a police report.
Tell Your Creditors and Financial Institutions
Contact your other financial institutions to let them know, so they can protect your accounts. Also contact all of your credit card companies and other credit issuers to make them aware, and ask them to send you new credit cards. If a thief has opened accounts in your name, send a copy of the police report along with a request that they be closed immediately. If a debt collector tries to collect a fraudulent debt, explain that you are a victim of identity theft and ask what formal steps you’ll need to take to clear your name.
Notify the Federal Trade Commission
Contact the FTC at 1-877-IDTHEFT or at www.consumer.gov/idtheft to file a complaint and learn about other steps to take.
Contact the Postal Service
If the identity thief filed a fraudulent change-of-address for your name or used the mail to commit fraud, tell your local Postmaster, and ask how you can contact the nearest Postal Inspector.
Keep Good Records of Everything
Document all of your activities to report the theft, because creditors or others may later want to verify that you took all of the right steps.
Read the full Identity Theft Your Life Kit >>
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