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