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While prevention is the best solution to Identity Theft, you need to know what to do if you become a victim of Identity Theft. Below are five steps to take immediately if you think your identity has been stolen:
Step 1: Freeze Your Credit Report
Request a copy of your credit report from each of the three agencies (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) for free from www.annualcreditreport.com. If you are viewing the report online, the simplest way to initiate a dispute is to click on the "Initiate Dispute" button or link on "How to Initiate Dispute". The credit reporting agency website will walk you through what steps to take in order protect your credit, depending on the level of fraud. There are three types of Fraud Alerts: Initial Fraud Alert = 90 days. Extended Fraud Alert or Security Freeze = 7 years. Active Duty Military Alert = 1 year. The Extended Fraud Alert or Security Freeze may delay, interfere with, or prohibit the timely approval of any subsequent request or application you make that involves access to your credit report. For complete information on credit reports, visit the Transunion website.
Step 2: Contact Your Bank
Contact your bank to let them know you've become a victim of fraud. If you think your credit card was stolen as well, and the bank is not the card issuer, contact the issuer in addition to your bank. This step is easier if you have prepared and made a list of institutions to contact and their phone numbers. Don't include account numbers on this list, as that would be one more way for a thief to steal your identity. Do keep a list of what's in your wallet, so if it's stolen you know exactly who to contact. One suggestion is to photocopy what is in your wallet and keep in your safety deposit box or safe.
Step 3: Contact the FTC
File an Identity Theft Affidavit and create an Identity Theft Report with the FTC. You can file this report online or by calling 877-438-4338. The FTC will provide you with information on what to do next, depending on what specific type of fraud occurred. Here is more information on what to do if your identity is stolen from the FTC.
Step 4: File a Police Report
In order to complete the report in Step 3, you'll need to contact your local police office and report the theft. Obtain a copy of the police report or the report number for future reference. The completed FTC Identity Theft Report will help you when you work with the credit reporting agencies or other companies where the thief has used your identity to open accounts.
Step 5: Protect Your Social Security Number
If you suspect your social security number may have been compromised, contact the Social Security Administration (800-269-0271) and the IRS (800-829-0433). This step is important if you think your SSN has been stolen, even if you haven't seen any fraudulent activity yet. The thief may be planning to wait until April and then steal your tax refund, or may seek employment under your name.