What to do if You’re a Victim of Identity Theft

What to do if You’re a Victim of Identity Theft


Identity Theft Victims: 5 Steps to Take Action Identity theft isn’t just a case of account
fraud, where someone steals your credit card information. When your identity is stolen,
a criminal can use your social security number to get a job, [pause] rent an apartment [pause]
or even take out a loan; and do it all in your name. In some cases, criminals are even
filing tax returns in victims’ names and taking their tax refunds. A victim of identity theft could go months
before they even notice that something strange is going on. The tip-off could be a past due
notice in the mail or a phone call from a collection agency about debt that isn’t theirs.
By that point, a lot of damage could have been done. If you notice something wrong, the most important
thing is to act quickly. Identity theft is becoming pretty common, but it’s still a hard
crime for authorities to track, so most victims have to be very proactive in getting their
identity back under their control. Think about it this way: you’re going to be your own best
detective on the case. Let’s go through the steps you’ll need to take to get your finances
and credit back under your control. The first step to take as soon as you suspect
identity theft is to file what�s called an Initial Fraud Alert with a credit reporting
agency. Businesses have to check your credit report to open new lines of credit, so if
they see there�s a fraud alert on your report, they may try to contact you to verify your
identity before doing so, which will make it harder for a criminal to open a new account
in your name. To file an alert, you can call one of the
three major credit reporting agencies, Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion� and tell a representative
that you�re an identity theft victim and want to place an initial fraud alert on your
file. It actually doesn�t matter which one you call, because whichever one you choose
is required to notify the other two. It�s free and the alert will stay on your account
for 90 days. For even more protection, you might also want
to to put a credit freeze on file with all three credit reporting agencies. A credit
freeze means that no creditors�like a bank or a business that offers store credit cards�can
look at your report without your permission. This can make it harder for a criminal to
open a new account in your name. You can lift a credit freeze at any time, or lift it temporarily
so someone you authorize can look at your report.
[1] In most states, setting up a credit freeze
is often free for victims of identity theft, or there may be a small fee–$10 or so. The
length of a freeze also varies by state. You can visit your state�s attorney general�s
office website for more details. To request a credit freeze, you�ll need
to contact each of the three credit reporting agencies. After you�ve set up an initial fraud report
and put a credit freeze on file as well, the next step is to start going through your credit
reports.[2] Your initial fraud report allows you to get
free access to your credit reports from the three credit reporting agencies. Contact each
one for instructions on how to get a copy of your report�you can also do this when
you set up your credit freeze. Look over each report carefully and note any
detail that isn�t yours. Then, before you dig into the problems you may find, you�ll
want to file an Identity Theft Report to let federal and local authorities know about the
crime. The report will help you get fraudulent info removed from your credit report, and
can stop businesses and collections agencies from coming after you for debts that aren�t
yours. Filing an Identity Theft Report is a two-part
process. First, you can file a report with the Federal Trade Commission. That�s the
government agency that looks out for consumers and helps protect them from fraud. You can
do this online at ftccomplaintassistant.gov. Once you complete the report online you�ll
get an FTC Identity Theft Affidavit which you can print for your records. Then you�ll need to file a police report.
You can do this in person at your local police precinct or you may be able to do this online.
It�s a good idea to call ahead to see what kind of documents you�ll need to bring with
you to the station to prove your identity and complete the report. Once you make your report, ask for a copy
and record the police report number. Your FTC Identity Theft affidavit and your
police report together make a complete Identity Theft Report. Now that you�re armed with your Identity
Theft Report, you�re ready to take on each fraudulent item you�ve found in your credit
report. For each fraud, you�ll need to file a dispute with the fraud department of each
credit reporting agency and contact any lenders or collections agencies involved. This part
of the process can mean a lot of phone calls. And in some cases, it can take a lot of time.
It�s a good idea to keep a written record of each call you make, noting the date and
time, as well as the name of each person you speak with, and any instructions they give
you so you can take the next steps. The FTC also has many helpful resources for
this part of the process, like check lists and instructions for how to dispute different
claims at ftc.gov. At this point, you can also place an extended
fraud alert on file with each of the credit reporting agencies. An extended fraud alert
is free and lasts for seven years. It will allow you to get two free copies of your credit
report each year so you can keep on top of any new suspicious activity. And one more thing�there are more credit
reporting agencies than just the big three�. There are also many smaller local or regional
ones which could have reports of other fraudulent activity in your name. So it�s a good idea
to check your local listings for other agencies and file fraud alerts with them as well. Getting your life�and your credit score–back
after an identity theft can be a challenge. Guarding your personal information carefully,
especially your social security number, can help you avoid identity theft in the future.
For more ways to protect your information check out our other video: Keeping Your Financial
Information Safe. [1]Source: http://doj.nh.gov/consumer/identity-theft/credit-freeze-faq.htm#accounts [2]Nominate for removal- cut down to rhe next
ste is to start�

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