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Dealing with Identity Theft Right Away

By Ruth Racey
Published: Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

Identity theft is becoming commonplace. When you feel you have fallen victim to the crime, do not panic. Panicking will get you nowhere, but there is something worse that you can do than panicking, and that is not doing anything. Mapping out a plan is essential. People who have undergone the same situation can help develop strategies to prevent grave harm to your finances and credit reputation. Do not tarry since the thief might be in a hurry to cash in on his loot. Report the identity theft right away.

List all agencies and institutions you need to inform about the theft. Your Credit Card Company or issuer is right there at the top, so are banks, credit reporting agencies, social security department, the federal identity clearinghouse and the police. Report the crime right away. They will take steps to ensure that no further transactions in your name are honored, assuming the thief has not gotten around to exceeding your credit limit or emptying your bank account.

To prevent identity theft, it is very important that you spend extra time checking your credit card and bank balances. Investigate any unusual transactions reflected in your statements. The identity thief could be waiting for you to make a big deposit or pay your credit card bills before moving in for the kill.

Applying basic preventive measures is the best way to fight identity theft. Do not leave personal belongings like purses and wallets containing valuable personal information lying around where others can pick them up without your knowledge. Personal identification or passwords are sensitive information. Never commit the mistake of giving them to anyone. You should change computer passwords regularly and make your password as hard as possible to prevent anybody from using your computer where you store important personal information. You should do the same with bank account and credit card PINs.

Giving out personal information through e-mails is not advisable. Many identity thieves use e-mails to gather information on potential victims. Do not give out information over the phone. Somebody might overhear you. Your message can also be recorded and the information can end up in wrong hands.

The most logical way to fight a theft, of course, is to dispute items in credit card bills or bank statements you have no knowledge of. Call the companies listed in the bills and inform them you have nothing to do with the purchases or charges. The credit reporting agencies have the obligation to investigate disputes and will delete items if you are proven right.

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