Identity Theft and How to Take Charge!
If you believe you are a victim of identity theft, the Federal Trade Commission recommends you take the following four steps as soon as possible.
- Place a fraud alert on your credit report by contacting the fraud departments of any one of the three consumer reporting bureaus listed below. The fraud alert directs creditors to contact you before opening any new accounts or making any changes to your existing accounts. You only need to contact one of the three companies to place an alert. The company you call is required to contact the other two, which will also place an alert on their versions of your report. Once you place the fraud alert in your file, you are entitled to order free copies of your credit reports, and request that the bureaus display only the last four digits of your Social Security number on your credit reports. The alert means any company that checks your credit knows your information was stolen, and they are required to contact you by phone to authorize new credit.
Contact information for the three consumer reporting companies:
Equifax: 1.800.525.6285; P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
Experian: 1.888.EXPERIAN (397.3742); P.O. Box 9532, Allen, TX 75013
TransUnion: 1.800.680.7289; Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790
- Close the accounts that you know or believe have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.
- File a report with your local police or the police in the community where the identity theft took place. Get a copy of the report or at the very least, the number of the report, to submit to your creditors and others that may require proof of the crime.
- File your complaint with the FTC. The FTC maintains a database of identity theft cases used by law enforcement agencies for investigations. Filing a complaint also helps them learn more about identity theft and the problems victims are having so that they can better assist you and other victims.
You should also maintain a record with the details of your conversations and keep copies of all correspondence.
In addition to the steps listed above, you may also want to consider the following, if applicable:
- Report the loss of your Driver’s License to the issuing agency and get a replacement with a new number (if possible)
- Report the loss of your Passport to the State Department 24-hr hotline at 202.955.0430
- Cancel your credit cards immediately. The key is having the toll free numbers and your card numbers handy so you know whom to call. Keep those where you can find them.