Take Quick Action to Limit Damage from Identity Theft

/ BY / Identity Theft

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:

  1. Notify your credit card company immediately. Look at the back of your credit card for a phone number that you can use to report fraudulent use of your card 24/7. The credit card issuer is likely to close that account and open a new one for you.
  2. Let your bank know if you’ve been a victim of identity theft so that it can watch for any unusual activity on your accounts with them.
  3. 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:

    • Experian (888-397-3742)
    • Equifax (800-525-6285)
    • TransUnion (800-680-7289)

    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.

  4. 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..

  5. 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.

  6. Alert any card issuers of potential problems. If you have store credit card accounts or other bank-issued credit cards, call their fraud departments to let them know that someone may attempt to use your card fraudulently.
  7. Create an identity theft report:

    • You’ll need to file a report with the FTC online at econsumer.gov. The information you enter will be shared with government enforcement agencies. It will also be used to generate an Identity Theft Report, which you can print out for future use (see below).
    • File a police report about your identity theft and get a case number. Attach your Identity Theft Report to the police report.
  8. Once you’ve created an Identity Theft Report you can ask for an extended fraud alert on your credit reports, which lasts seven years. You’ll need to contact each of the credit reporting bureaus separately to get the extend fraud alert. It lasts seven years. You’re also entitled to two free credit reports each year from a credit reporting agency, which means you can monitor your credit report activity every other month.
  9. Keep good records. As you’re making phone calls and sending letters, it’s a good idea to keep track of the date and time of your calls (or the day that you sent a letter) and the name of the person you spoke to or sent the correspondence to.
  10. Stay vigilant. Even with all these safeguards in place, it’s vital for you to keep a close eye on your accounts so that thieves can’t do any more damage.
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Please note your financial situation is unique and our tips & advice presented here may not be appropriate for your situation. CreditCardXpo.com recommends that you seek different advice & opinions from your own accountant or financial adviser who understands your individual circumstances before making any important decisions or implementing any financial strategy.