Your first indication that your identity has been stolen may come when you open a credit card bill and notice that there are several charges on it that you know you didn't make. When you dig a little deeper by obtaining one of the free annual credit reports that you're entitled to each year, you find that there have been a few more accounts opened in your name without your knowledge.
What should you do? Act immediately! If you suspect that you’ve been a victim of identity theft, following the steps below (as suggested by the Federal Trade Commission, Sallie Mae and the Better Business Bureau) to help limit the damage:
Contact one of the credit reporting bureaus to report the problem. It will place a fraud alert on your account. That means that a company issuing credit should contact you by phone before opening a new account in your name.
The credit reporting agencies are:
Once you’ve contacted one credit reporting bureau, it should notify the other two about your request for a fraud alert. The alert stays on your account for 90 days, but you can request an extension if you think that you still have a problem.
Consider putting a freeze on your credit report, which means that potential creditors can’t get a copy of it. Since creditors usually won’t extend credit without a credit report, this stops an identity thief from opening new accounts in your name. The only problem is that it will also prevent you from getting credit without lifting the freeze. Depending on your state law, a credit freeze and a temporary or permanent lifting of a credit freeze may cost you a small fee.
You’ll have to contact each credit agency separately to request a credit freeze and/or the lifting of a credit freeze..
Get a free copy of your credit report from each reporting agency. When you suspect identity theft, you’re entitled to a free copy of your credit report so you can do a further check for any suspicious activity.
If you find any errors or fraudulent charges on your report, notify the credit bureaus and the business involved immediately. Share with them the Identity Theft Report that you’ll create at the FTC website (see #7 below). Dispute any charges that you did not make.
Create an identity theft report: