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10 Things Identity Theft Victims Must Do
"How did this happen to me???!!!" This is what most people tend to ask after learning that they have become victims of identity theft. In fact, there are numerous tricks those felons might use in order to obtain your personal information. Typically, identity thieves can be categorized into 3 groups.
- Opportunists- Their tricks are quite primitive, and they actually don't do a lot of planning. They might steal your wallet, look over your shoulder at ATMs or rummage through your trash. Next time you see a homeless-looking person snooping around your garbage bin outside, watch what he takes with him.
- Impostors- These con artists are very sly. They could file a fake change-of-address form with the post office and collect your mail. They could order unauthorized credit reports on you by claiming they're your potential landlord or employer. Sometimes they might give you a phony call and pretend to be a telemarketer. It could sound somewhat like this: "Hello, Mr. Pigworth. Congratulations! You have won two plane tickets to Hawaii, but first we need some of your information!" At this point, I suggest you hang up the phone.
- Online Identity Thieves - Online identity theft has become one of the fastest-growing internet crimes in the past decade. These smart criminals hack into computer systems and hunt for victims with good credit. And sometimes, all they have to do is purchase people's social security numbers, addresses, credit history or even maiden names from some online identity search companies.
Once these thieves get a hold of your information, they could open credit accounts, apply for loans, buy whatever they wish or even open a business - all under your name! Luckily, the law will protect you from being liable for those unauthorized credit card purchases. The maximum amount for which you might be held responsible is $50. The woes of being an identity theft victim are not caused by financial burdens, but all the inconveniences you might have to face, such as having to take time off from work to cooperate with the police departments, gathering evidence to prove your innocence and making endless phone calls to financial institutions. Once you learn that you have become a victim of identity theft, you must act immediately to fix the credit damage and minimize all the hassles you might have to endure.
What should I do if my identity has been stolen?
- Get your credit reports from all three credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and Transunion). Read everything carefully. Mark all the accounts you didn't open, inquiries you didn't make, and delinquencies you didn't cause.
- File an ID theft complaint online at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website. Use the identity theft information you have on your credit reports (e.g. the names of companies where accounts were opened, types of accounts, the account numbers and the dollar amounts charged) to fill out the complaint form. All these pieces of information will be saved in the FTC’s Identity Theft Data Clearinghouse, which law enforcement officers can search as part of their criminal investigations. Remember to make several copies of your complaint for future reference.
- File a police report. Attach a copy of your FTC ID theft complaint with the police report you're filing. Make sure you get several copies of the police report; you will need to show them to creditors and collection agencies.
- Contact creditors and banks. Talk to someone in the fraud department and inform them that you have been a victim of identity theft. Close all the accounts that have been tampered with. Most credit experts suggest you should close other accounts that haven't been affected as well, so that you won't give the identity thief any extra opportunities.
- Request a fraud alert. In case you do not want to close your credit accounts, you may change your passwords and ask for a fraud alert from one of the credit reporting agencies. You won't need to contact all three of the agencies, as the one receiving the alert request will also have to notify the other two.
6. Ask credit reporting agencies to block all information related to the identity theft on your credit report. This procedure might not be as simple as it sounds. You will need to show them your police report and FTC ID theft compliant. After that, you may still have to do many follow-ups with them.
7. Request utility and phone companies to remove fraudulent charges (if there are any). Once again you will probably have to provide the police report and FTC ID theft complaint to prove your innocence.
8. Check to see whether your social security number has been used fraudulently.Call 800-269-0271 or visit ssa.gov to order your social security benefits statement.
9. If your check books have been stolen, you will also have to report stolen checks.The agencies you have to report stolen checks to are Telecheck (telecheck.com), Certegy Claims Information System (800-437-5120), CheckRite (checkritesystems.com), Chexsystems (chexhelp.com) and CheckCenter (800-843-0760).
10. Keep track of all your good efforts in writing. Save copies of all correspondence between you and the police, creditors, credit reporting agencies and debt collectors. Even if it's just a phone conversation, you should still write down the name of the person you have spoken to, the requests you have made, what the other party has agreed to do, etc.