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What to Do When Your Identity Is Stolen?

By Janet Lacey
Published: Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

Even though identity theft is one of the most common crimes ailing society today, not many people know how to react or what to do if they are victims of identity theft. In case your identity has been stolen, or you suspect that you are a victim of identity theft, then the initial steps that you should take on an ASAP basis are: 

Contact The Credit Bureaus: Contact all three credit bureaus and report identity theft. Within 24 hours, all the bureaus will have placed a fraud alert on your report, which will ensure that no extra cards can be issued on existing accounts, credit limits cannot be increased and no new cards or accounts can be opened without a creditor first calling you personally and taking permission. Pre-approved credit card and insurance offers will also not be provided. An initial alert lasts for 3 months while an extended alert stays on your report for 7 years. Since placing an alert will make getting credit tough for you as well, place just an initial alert when you suspect identity theft but do not know for sure. 

Check Your Credit Report: Once you place a fraud alert, a credit bureau is supposed to send you a free copy of your credit report. Check your credit report to find out if more instances of identity theft than you know of have occurred and take immediate action. Write a detailed report explaining how you have become a victim of identity theft to all credit bureaus, return receipt requested, and ask them to include it with your credit report. 

Report The Theft: Contact your local police to file a complaint and report the theft. In case the crime was committed at some other place, then you will need to report it to all the police departments controlling the areas where the crime occurred. Keep a list of the people you speak to and their phone numbers with you for future correspondence. You will also need to report the identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission. Get the affidavit from www.consumer.gov/idtheft, fill it out completely and send it by certified mail with a return receipt requested to the FTC. Your police reports and the FTC affidavit will be required by almost all creditors as proof of identity theft. 

Change All Your Passwords: Immediately change all your PINs and passwords. Do not use any information that the thief may already have access to, like your SSN or your mother’s name in your new password. Make them all unique and tough to figure out, and if possible, use different passwords for different accounts. 

Check Misuse Of Social Security Number: In case you feel your SSN has been fraudulently used, contact the Office of the Inspector General to notify them and request a copy of your Personal Earnings and Benefits Statement to check for fraud. 

Contact Other Departments: In order to avoid misuse of your identity, you should call up your phone and utility companies and notify them of the theft, requesting that no other accounts be opened in your name. Also inform the DMV to prevent misuse of your information on fake licenses. 

Keep detailed records of all the correspondence that occurs as a result of your reporting ID theft. These will be required time and again for pursuing investigations and clearing your name and your credit report.

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