Fight Back Against Identity Theft

FIGHT BACK AGAINST IDENTITY THEFT 11/29/10

It happened to me once. While out shopping, someone bumped into me. I didn't think much about it until I went to check out and my wallet was missing! With my heart pounding, I rushed back to the office to cancel all my credit cards and to try to prevent identity theft. I was lucky. The only charge was for gas on my fuel credit card before I had reached the company. My identity remained intact.

But what steps would I have taken if that had not been the end of it? The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has a four-step plan you should undertake as soon as you suspect fraudulent activity has taken place with your identity.

First, immediately file a fraud alert on all three of the major consumer credit reporting companies. They are: TransUnion (800-680-7289), Equifax (888-766-0008) and Experian (888-397-3742). As long as you notify at least one of the companies, it is required to alert the other two. After the alert has been filed, request a free copy of your credit report from each of the companies. Review each one thoroughly for any suspicious activity. If you find any incorrect or fraudulent information, write a letter correcting it. Continue to monitor your credit history at least annually.

Second, close any accounts that were fraudulently opened or were used or tampered with. In order to do that, contact the fraud department of the financial institution that issued the credit. Call and then follow up in writing with proof of the fraud, including any written documentation that supports your claim.

Third, contact your local police department. The police report can serve as some of the supporting documentation in reporting the fraudulent activity. Additionally, the details you provide can assist the police in locating the criminal and preventing the same from happening to someone else.

Last, file a complaint with the FTC. This also provides documentation of the fraud and provides a way for law enforcement around the country to track and catch the thieves. Contact the FTC on the Identity Theft Hotline at 877-ID-THEFT (877-438-4338).

Identity theft is horrible. I hope it never happens to you. But if it does, now you know what to do.

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