Act Quickly if You are a Victim of Identity Theft

File a Police Report

The authorities are often unable to assist you, but you will need a police report or miscellaneous incidents report on record for disputes with lending organizations.

Contact all of your banks and credit cards companies

Let them know you are a victim of identity theft. If you don't already have passwords on your accounts, set them up immediately. Ask the lending institutions to make sure that no information is given and no new accounts are opened without first verifying your identity. You'll probably be liable for $50 or so of the fraudulent charges, but different issuers have different policies. Most creditors promptly issue replacement cards with new account numbers.

Put an extended fraud alert on your Credit Report

Contact one of the three major credit agencies: Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion. Place an extended fraud alert on all three credit reports. By requesting this through one credit reporting agency, it will be forwarded to the other two so that all three agencies place the alert on your credit file. When you or someone else attempts to open a credit account in your name, increase the credit limit on an existing account, or obtain a new card on an existing account, the lender must contact you by telephone to verify that you authorize the request. This alert is good for seven years, but you will need a police report documenting that you have been a victim of identity theft to activate it.

Document everything

In September 2008, President Bush signed the Identity Theft Enforcement and Restitution Act. This law requires that convicted thieves pay the victim an amount "equal to the value of the time reasonably spent by the victim in an attempt to remediate the intended or actual harm incurred by the victim from the offense". Keep a written record of all conversations you have pertaining to the theft of your identity. Record who you talk to, the date, the duration of the conversation, and what was discussed. There will be a lot of activity initially, so make sure you keep accurate notes. If your case ends up in court, you will be glad you took copious notes. Keep copies of all documents and correspondence and make sure to send all letters return receipt requested.

Contact the Federal Trade Commission

Although the FTC can't prosecute, it is a great resource for additional information and support when tackling an identity theft case. The phone number for is (877) IDTHEFT (438-4338), or follow this link Federal Trade Commission.

Submit an Identity Theft Security Alert

Visit the ChexSystems website to submit an Identity Theft Security Alert. Or call them at (800) 428-9623. Identity thieves may try to open new bank accounts under your name through a bank that you have no relationship with. A ChexSystems security alert will alert any bank opening an account under your name that you are a victim of identity theft. Almost all banks are connected to ChexSystems.

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