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Identity Theft: What to Do if You Think Your Identity Has Been Stolen.
Over 19,000 people each day fall victim to identity theft according to studies done in 2003. Identity theft victims spend an average of ,400 out-of-pocket and an average of 600 hours recovering from this crime.
There are several methods used by identity thieves to steal your identity. These methods include:
Skimming: Thieves steal your credit or debit card numbers by using a special storage device when you use your card.
Changing your address: Thieves divert your billing statements to another location by fraudulently completing a “change of address” form. After receiving your billing statements an ID thief has all the information they need to begin robbing you.
Phishing: ID thieves send you email pretending to be a financial institution or other company, hoping you will reveal your personal information by filling out a short form.
Dumpster Diving: ID thieves rummage through garbage looking for bills or other documents containing your financial information.
Stealing: ID Thieves steal items such as your wallet or purse, your personal records, your mail, etc.
There are some helpful steps you can take right away if you think your identity has been stolen. If you believe you may have fallen victim to any one of these or other identity theft schemes the first thing you’ll want to do is to contact the fraud departments of any one of the three major credit bureaus. You do not have to contact all three because once a fraud alert is placed on your file the other credit bureaus are automatically notified to place fraud alerts. You will then receive credit reports from all three major credit bureaus.
The next thing you want to do after viewing your credit reports is close the account(s) that you believe has been tampered with or fraudulently opened. In either case you can request copies of all documents relating to the fraudulent transactions made or accounts opened using your personal information. If your request is made in writing, in most cases a business or creditor must provide you copies of all applications and other documents relating to accounts and transactions that have resulted from your identity theft.
Now it is time to file a report with your local police department or law enforcement. You may also need to report the theft where the crime occurred if it occurred somewhere other than where you live. You will need this report to assist you with your creditors who may require proof of the identity theft so be sure to give law enforcement as much information and documented evidence as possible. If your local police department refuses to file a report, try your local sheriffs department or state police agency. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act this report is called an “Identity Theft Report”. Be sure to get a copy of this report for your records.
If you find that a new account has been opened in your name by an imposter you will want to immediately contact those creditors by phone and in writing. Thanks to changes in the law you can now prevent businesses from reporting fraudulent accounts to credit bureaus. You may be asked by the creditors to fill out a fraud affidavit. You can get a standard fraud affidavit form from the Federal Trade Commission’s website. Ask the business or creditor in writing to provide you and the investigating law enforcement agency with all documents relating to the fraudulent account.
When you have resolved the matter with the company or creditor, be sure to ask for a letter stating that the company has closed the account in dispute and has discharged the debts. You’ll want to keep this letter in your file in case the account reappears on your credit report. You can also notify the credit bureaus about the fraudulent account and provide them copies of the letter.
After you notify the credit bureaus about the fraudulent accounts, they are required to block this account information from future credit reports. They must also notify the credit grantor of the fraudulent account. You can also instruct the credit bureaus in writing to remove inquiries that have been generated resulting from the fraudulent access. You may also want to request the credit bureaus notify all companies and creditors who received your credit report in the last six months to alert them of the dispute and fraudulent information.
You may want to consider filling a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission as well. They keep an identity theft database used by law enforcement.
Be sure to document everything in writing and keep complete notes of any telephone conversations you have regarding this situation. You’ll want to keep a well organized file documenting the events. Identity theft is a dirty business but with due diligence you can come out of it with your credit and reputation in tact.
About the Author:
For more information and assistance regarding credit and credit cards visit firstcredit.net. You can learn more about Identity theft and apply for a credit card using secure online credit card applications