Steps after identify theft

If you have been the victim of identity theft you are not alone. According to Javelin Strategy & Research's 2014 Identity Fraud Study, there were more than 13.0 million victims, which was an increase of 500,000 from the year before. If you have been a victim of identity theft you need to be proactive, and that doesn't mean you simply need to monitor your accounts. You should also take other more aggressive steps to protect yourself.

Steps to combat identity theft

1. First, you need to put a fraud alert on your credit information. Contact one of the three national credit agencies and ask for them to put a fraud alert on your accounts. They are required to notify the other two companies.

  • Equifax: 800-525-6285 or www.equifax.com
  • Experian: 888-397-3742 or www.experian.com
  • TransUnion: 800-680-7289 or www.transunion.com

The fraud alert will generally be effective for 90 days. During this time all new credit applications or increases for credit limits on existing accounts should be stopped. A fraud alert can be made before or after identity theft. For example, I received a notification that a new request for a credit card had been denied, but I knew I did not request a new credit card. I immediately notified the credit agency and placed a fraud alert on my account.

If you have been the victim of identity theft you may want to place an extended fraud alert on your account. To do this you will need to send the credit bureau an identity theft report, which is the official report you have filed with a federal, state, or local law enforcement agency.

2. Next, you need to review your credit reports from each credit agency. Be sure to review if there have been accounts opened you did not authorize or late payments. Also verify all inquiries made against your account. If you see any discrepancies you will need to talk to the credit agency about how they can be corrected.

3. Talk to the police. After you have evidence of fraud you will need to contact the police and file a report. Will the police be able to find the perpetrator? Maybe or maybe not, but they will be able to give you a police report to take to your creditors. The police also need the information to determine if the perpetrator is part of a larger criminal enterprise.

4. Fill out the correct complaints and affidavits. If someone has stolen your Social Security number you will need to contact the Social Security Administration and fill out the proper fraud forms. If they have filed a false IRS tax return you need to contact the IRS. If they have used your debit or credit card information to make illegal purchases you may need to complete an Identity Theft Victim's Complaint and Affidavit, which can be found at the Federal Trade Commission website at www.ftc.gov/idtheft.

The bottom line is in today's financial environment where information is king you are going to have to remain vigilant. For instance, I caught two illegal charges on my credit and debit accounts simply by checking my online banking transactions every day.

Prevention is also important. Buy a $20 paper shredder and make sure you don't throw important papers in the trash. By taking several simple steps you can protect your identity.

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