Tuesday, October 20, 2009

My Identity Has Been Stolen - What Should I Do?

/PRNewswire/ -- It could be as simple as an unexplained charge on your credit card statement or a debit from your checking account that you don't recall making or have a receipt for. Many victims of identity theft don't recognize small transactions as symptoms of a larger problem. In fact, many victims do not realize their identity has been stolen until months, or even years after the theft. The average victim of identity theft will spend close to 200 hours and $1,200 repairing damage done by an identity thief.

"Even one unexplained transaction on your account could be a sign of identity theft," said Suzanne Boas, president of Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Greater Atlanta (CCCS). "Quick action can minimize the impact and reduce the amount of time and money spent repairing the damage."

If you are the victim of identity theft, take the following steps:

Notify the Credit Bureaus

Contact the fraud departments of any of the three major credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit file.

TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289; www.transunion.com; Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790

Equifax: 1-888-766-0008; www.equifax.com; P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241

Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742); www.experian.com; P.O. Box 9532, Allen, TX 75013

Once you call one credit bureau, they are required to notify the other two. Once you place the fraud alert on your file, you are entitled to a free copy of your credit report from each. Request that only the last 4 digits of your Social Security Number appear on the report. Review the reports carefully, looking for inquiries from companies you haven't contacted, accounts you didn't open, and debts on your accounts that you can't explain.

Close the accounts that you know or believe have been tampered with or opened fraudulently

If you suspect that your accounts have been tampered with or see new accounts that may have been opened fraudulently, close them immediately. Call and speak with someone in the security or fraud department of each company. Be sure to document each conversation, including dates, times and who you talked to. Keep copies of all supporting documents and if you send correspondence, do so by certified mail, return receipt requested.

When you open new accounts, use new passwords and personal identification numbers (PINs). Avoid easy to crack codes such as birth dates, phone numbers, your mother's maiden name or your house number.

Once you clear up your credit report, check them periodically to make sure no new activity has occurred.

File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.

By sharing your identity theft complaint with the FTC, you will provide important information that can help law enforcement officials across the nation track down identity thieves and stop them.

File a complaint with the FTC using the online complaint form (https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/); or through their toll free Identity Theft Hotline at 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338). Be sure to call the Hotline to update your complaint if you have any additional information or problems.

File a Police Report

File a report with your local police department and get a copy. You may need to submit this report to creditors and others to prove the theft.

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