What Should I Do If My Identity Is Stolen?

An estimated 9 million Americans will have their identity stolen this year.  Will you be one of them?  I sure hope not because far too much work goes into having and keeping a good credit score to let some identity thief ruin your credit in an instant.  If you suspect you’ve been a victim, do not ignore the signs and just assume all will be well.

Here are 4 steps you should take immediately when and if you’re wallet has been stolen, your mail has been stolen, you live in an apartment complex and share a mailbox with hundreds of other tenants;

Step #1 – Call each of the credit bureaus, request a copy of all of your credit reports, and then put a fraud alert on your credit reports.  Here’s how to reach their fraud units;

Equifax 1-800-525-6285; www.equifax.com

Experian 1-888-397-3742; www.experian.com

TransUnion 1-800-680-7289; www.transunion.com

By placing a fraud alert you should be able to stop the identity thief from opening any more new accounts in your name.  The lenders will see the alert and should stop the presses on any new account openings.  It is important you look at your credit reports for any new accounts, addresses, and inquiries that may indicate fraudulent activity.  You will also want to frequently check your credit report for any further fraudulent activity.

Step #2 – File a police report – in some areas this can be done online, in other places you either must go into the police station or they will come to your home.  The officer will ask you a number of questions, including whether or not you know who may have stolen your information.  This separates the real victims from people who aren’t.

Step #3 – Place a call to the FTC and file a complaint with them.  Their hot-line number is 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338) This will not only help you with your dispute process, but it also enables the police to track down identity thieves across the country.

Step #4 – Close any accounts that may have been affected by the identity theft, whether it is bank checking or savings account, or it could be a credit card account.   If all of your information has been taken by the identity thief you will have to close everything they can associate you with, for your own protection.

John Ulzheimer is the President of Consumer Education at SmartCredit.com, the credit blogger for Mint.com, and a Contributor for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.  He is an expert on credit reporting, credit scoring and identity theft. Formerly of FICO, Equifax and Credit.com, John is the only recognized credit expert who actually comes from the credit industry.  Follow him on Twitter here.

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