Identity theft is on the rise. Thieves steal personal information about victims and obtain credit cards, utility accounts, bank loans and even jobs in the name of their victims. The damage can be extensive financially and emotionally. It can take years to correct. ;If you are the victim of identity theft remember that no matter how frustrating the situation becomes, there is hope. You will need to take some steps that the police cannot take for you. You will need to be persistent and keep good records. Following is information to get you started.
What to do if you become a victim
Report the crime to the police. Usually, you can make a report to the jurisdiction in which you reside, unless you know exactly where the thief obtained your information. Contact the fraud departments of each of the three major credit bureaus. Tell them to flag your file with a fraud alert and add a statement that creditors should get your permission before opening any new accounts in your name. Request copies of your credit reports from the credit bureaus. Review the information to make sure no other fraudulent accounts have been established in your name.Obtain new credit reports every few months to monitor the account activity in your name.
Contact all creditors for any accounts that have been illegally established or tampered with. Speak to someone in the security or fraud department. Follow up in writing, it is required by the Fair Credit Billing Act for resolving credit errors
Contact your bank(s) to make sure that your accounts have not been tampered with or accessed. If necessary close existing accounts and open new ones with account numbers.
If it appears that your Social Security number has been used, contact the Social Security Administration. This is especially important if someone else obtains employment with your information, because it will affect your tax and earnings liabilities.
File a report with the Federal Trade Commission 1-887-IDTHEFT (www.consumer.gov/idtheft).
Maintain a file of all reports, letters and journal of phone conversations and other appointments related to your case. Keep this file in chronological order.
Knowing how thieves obtain information is the first step in protecting yourself. Identity thieves obtain your information in a number of ways. Outright theft of personal information (stealing wallets or purses) is one obvious way. Others may steal mail, while some trick you into providing information such as your Social Security number. Still others sift through trash looking for personal information. Take steps that keep thieves from getting your information.
Don’t leave personal property unattended or unsecured. If you think simple protective measures waste time, remember that it may take years to undo the damage of an identity thief.
Do not provide personal information to anyone you don?
Shred documents that contain personal information before disposing of them.
If you receive unsolicited calls for credit, products or services do not reveal any personal information. Ask to have information about the offer mailed to you so that you may verify the legitimacy of the business.
The Federal Trade Commission hosts an excellent web site for consumers. Visit the Consumer.Gov site for more information
Students are prone to identity theft and should be aware of this problem. The United States Department of Education has a website to provide tips and resources for students The web address is: www.ed.gov/misused
Links to the three major credit bureaus are provided below.