Identity Theft

 

Reporting Identity Theft


Below we will cover some of the best things you can do if you suspect you are a victim of identity theft.

 

Place a Fraud Alert

Who to Contact

To place a fraud alert. Contact one of the three credit bureaus:

 

Equifax: P.O. Box 740250, Atlanta, GA 30374- 0250. 
Report fraud: Call (800) 525-6285 and write to address above. 
TDD: (800) 255-0056 
Web: www.equifax.com

 

Experian: P.O. Box 9556 Allen, TX 75013- 9556. 
Report fraud: Call (888) EXPERIAN (888-397-3742) and write to address above.  
TDD: Use relay to fraud number above.  
Web: www.experian.com

 

TransUnion: P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790. 
Report fraud: (800) 680-7289 and write to address above.  
TDD: (877) 553-7803 
E-mail (fraud victims only): fvad@transunion.com 
Web: www.transunion.com

Upon suspecting any form of identity theft, the the first thing to do is to place a fraud alert at any one of the three national credit bureaus. A fraud alert places a flag on your file at the three major national credit bureaus. With a fraud alert, lenders should call you to ask if you want credit whenever you or someone else tries to open a new credit account in your name.

You only have to contact one credit bureau. The bureaus are required to share fraud-alert information. Our Sidebar has the contact information. Within 24 hours of your call, the three credit bureaus will place a fraud alert on your file. An initial fraud alert stays in place for at least 90 days, and removes your name from pre-approved credit card and insurance offers for two years. A fraud alert might inconvenience you if you’re applying for “instant credit” at a retailer, but if you give your cell phone as a contact, lenders can reach you easily to minimize inconvenience. Request free copies of your credit report when you place the fraud alert and check them for inaccuracies. If you ask, the bureaus will only use the last four digits of your Social Security Number on the copies.


Close All the Accounts you Think have been Tampered With

Next, you will need to contact the fraud departments of banks, credit cards and other financial institutions you do business with. Let them know about the incident. Jot down the name of the person you speak with and the date of the call. Follow up in writing, including copies of documents (forged checks, fake applications, etc.) that support your claim. Then send all correspondence relating to identity theft certified mail, return receipt requested, so you can prove the companies got your correspondence. All this will help limit your liability.

Then, contact every merchant the thief did business with, and follow the steps we just listed above. The Federal Trade Commission Website (<http://www.ftc.gov./bcp/menu-credit.htm>) has an ID Theft Affidavit you can use to dispute new unauthorized accounts. Ask each company you deal with if they accept the FTC’s form or if they have forms of their own they can send you. Keep a copy on file of all your documents and correspondence.

Contact the Police

Remember, identity theft is a crime. If someone has stolen your identity, be sure to contact local and state law enforcement. Send a copy of the police report to your creditors. Depending on your circumstances, here are few other agencies where you may need to report the incident:

  • Contact the U.S. Post Office if you think the thief has used the mail to defraud you (www.usps.gov/websites/depart/inspect).
  • Contact the Social Security Administration if your Social Security number has been hijacked (www.ssa.gov). Social Security Administration Fraud Hotline: 1-800-269-0271
  • Contact the Internet Crime Complaint Center (www.ic3) if the fraud has occurred over the Internet.
  • Take Charge: Fighting Back Against Identity Theft, accessible on the FTC Website (www.consumer.gov/idtheft/), gives more in-depth information as well as resources to deal with specific identity theft issues.

 

Proving Identity Theft

Correcting the Problem

Identity theft can seriously damage your credit. However, with proper documentation -- usually proof of identification and an identity theft report
-- you can ask consumer reporting agencies to delete incorrect information from your file. 

It can be a time-consuming hassle to report identity theft. That’s why it’s important for you to be assertive, organized, and aware of your rights. Start by keeping a file. In it, maintain:

  • A copy of every document relating to your identity theft
  • A log of phone calls made regarding your identity theft

The FTC Website (www.consumer.gov/idtheft/) has a “Chart Your Course of Action” form online to help you keep track of all the information you will need and the steps to take to prove you’ve been a victim of identity theft and restore your good credit. We’re going to hit the high points here. 

Documents to Help you Report the Identity Theft

Here are a few specifics about the documents you will want to keep track of as you report your identity theft:

  • Police report and ID Theft Affidavit. A police report will have as much information as you can give about when your identity theft occurred, who might be responsible, and any other details available to you. Send copies of the police report to credit card companies, financial institutions, merchants and consumer reporting companies when dealing with disputed accounts.
  • Documentation of identity theft from the companies the thief did business with. Send copies of the police report and ID affidavit to any companies the thief has contacted. Request that they send you copies of applications or other business transactions regarding your identity theft. By law, the companies have to send you such documents free of charge within thirty days of receiving your request. 
  • Information from debt collectors. If an ID thief has run up debts in your name and they have gone to a collection agency, you can get information about those debts. The company will probably request your identity theft report and proof of identification. You can find out the name, address and phone number of the credit issuer that referred the account to the collection agency, the amount of the debt and how to close the account permanently. Keep all correspondence on this issue in your identity theft file in case you need to show it to future lenders.

After the disputes are resolved

After you report the identity theft and resolve the disputes, make sure to get proof! Ask every company you’ve dealt with for a letter stating the disputed accounts have been closed and the fraudulent debts discharged. Keep these letters in case the issue ever comes up again. 

By now, you might be thinking, should I purchase identity theft insurance? Read on to find out.

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