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Victim of Identity Theft or Fraud: What to Do about It

If you are the victim of identity theft, reacting quickly is key. Identity theft is a crime that is growing. If your identity is stolen, contacting your lenders, the local police and the Federal Trade Commission may be necessary.

How to know if you're a victim

The victim of identity theft should report this theft.

Many people don't know they're a victim of identity theft or fraud until they can't obtain credit when they need it. Getting a copy of your credit report on a regular basis (every three to four months) and reviewing it allows you to better track potentional risks. Look for the following signs of identity theft or fraud:

  • Your credit report contains names or addresses that aren't yours.
  • There are accounts on your report that you didn't open.
  • Creditors are calling you to try to collect a debt you didn't create.
  • You notice balances on your current credit cards or other loans higher than what you expected.

If you notice any of these instances of potential identity theft or fraud, report them immediately.

Report to your creditors

The first step is to report all claims of identity theft or fraud to your creditors. If you receive a statement with debt you didn't create, contact the creditor immediately.

File a police report

File a report with your local police department. As the victim of identity theft or fraud, you need to report such claims as you would any other type of loss you've faced. The police will work with you in trying to track down who may have stolen your identity or committed the fraud.

Place a fraud alert on your credit report

Contact one of the credit bureaus and ask to place a fraud alert on your credit report because you believe you are a victim of identity theft or fraud; this credit bureau will then share the alert with the other two bureaus so they can add the alert to their respective credit files. The fraud alert advises creditors viewing your credit report to take special precautions before making a decision to extend credit based on the information in your credit report. Look on the websites of the three credit bureaus - Experian, Equifax and TransUnion - for more information on how to place a fraud alert online, which is the fastest and easiest way to complete this step. Also, request a copy of your credit report online. Once an initial alert is added to your credit report, you are eligible to receive one free credit report during the 12 months following the date the alert was added to your file. Review the data on your credit report and report any discrepancies to the credit bureaus and your local police department.

Close accounts

In some situations, you will need to close accounts affected by the theft. Do this in writing and provide information to the lender as to why you are closing the account.

  • Monitor your credit report for any new accounts.
  • Provide copies of your police report to any creditor that tries to collect on these debts.
  • Follow up with your creditors and consider long-term credit protection services to prevent further problems from occurring.

Report to the FTC

You may wish to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. Visit the FTC website for more information on how to do so or call toll-free at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).

Now that you know more about identity theft and fraud,
get your credit report & score.
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This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal or financial advice. You should always seek the advice of a legal or financial professional before making legal or financial decisions.

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