What to do if your identity is stolen
A course of action to follow if your identity is stolenIf your identity is stolen, itís difficult to concentrate on what to do and what order in which to do them. Still, you must remain calm and deal with the situation as best you can. What to do if your identity is stolen requires a concrete plan of action set into motion the very moment you know that you have been robbed of your most important personal possession; namely, your good name.
One of the major problems with identity theft is that the thief has time on his or her side. It usually takes a while to notice something is wrong; a bill from an account you never opened or charges on your credit card that you do not recognize. Unfortunately, you have to have luck on your side even when identity theft occurs. A stolen wallet, for example, is in its own way a godsend because you will discover the loss the next time you reach for it and be able to act upon it more quickly.
What are some things you should do if your identity is stolen?
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nationís consumer protection agency, the following four steps should be taken as soon as possible after discovering that your identity has been stolen. Make sure to keep records of all your conversations and copies of all correspondence
1. Fraud alerts
Place a fraud alert on your credit reports as this can help prevent an identity thief from opening any more accounts in your name. There are two types of fraud alerts: an initial alert, which remains on your credit card for at least 90 days and an extended alert which stays with you for seven years. You need to contact only one of the three nationwide consumer reporting companies in order to place an alert as the one you choose is requited by law to contact the other two. The three companies are:
1- TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289; www.transunion.com; Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790
2- Equifax: 1-800-525-6285; www.equifax.com; P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374- 0241
3- Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742); www.experian.com; P.O. Box 9532, Allen, TX 75013
2. Close suspicious accounts and open new ones carefully
What to do if your identity is stolen includes closing any accounts that you know, or believe, have been tampered with or opened fraudulently. This is especially important if you notice that an identity thief has changed the billing address on an existing credit card account. For any new account you decide to open, request that a password be used before any inquiries or changes can be made to that account. Do not make it easy for thieves to guess what you are up to; avoid easily available information such as your motherís maiden name, your phone number or any series of consecutive numbers.
3. File a police report
Notifying the police in the community where the identity theft took place is important in understanding what to do if your identity is stolen. Get a copy of the police report, if you can, as it is a very effective tool in dealing with creditors who need proof of the crime.
4. File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission
Although this may seem to be a bit over the top, what to do when your identity is stolen involves the help of the FTC. According to their estimates, as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year. Your report will help law enforcement law enforcement officials across the nation track down identity thieves and stop them. The FTC can refer victimsí complaints to other government agencies and companies for further action, as well as investigate companies for violations of laws the agency enforces.
5- Take control and stay alert
What to do when your identity is stolen involves psychologically arming yourself with tools to help yourself get through this very challenging and upsetting situation. Thieves can wreak havoc on your personal finances, but you can take control by closing suspicious accounts and paying special attention to the things that arrive in your mailbox and on your bills. Unexplained phone calls billed to your cellular phone, bills concerning new wireless services that you did not initiate are red flags that an identity thief is at work. Nip it in the bud.
Watch out for recurring problems even after the problem is solved. You still to monitor your credit reports indefinitely and read all your financial statements very carefully. Watch out for things like: failing to receive bills either at all or not on time, receiving cards you didnít apply for, being denied credit for no apparent reason and getting calls or letters from debt collectors or business about merchandise or services you know you didnít buy.
What to do when your identity is stolen involves confronting the issue at hand and dealing with it immediately. Unfortunately, while this world is full of good things and good people, it also has more than its share of unscrupulous thieves who would just as soon steal your identity and capitalize on your loss and confusion as give you the time of day.
What are any of us without our good name?
The theft of that far exceeds the cost of any material possession.