Having your personal information compromised is a terrible feeling, but if you know how to deal with identity theft, you can quickly resolve the matter and get back on track. Identity theft is a crime, and it’s the act of another person stealing your personal information for financial gain. This person may open credit cards in your name or make purchases with your existing accounts. Time is of the essence if you’re a victim, and these seven tips will show you how to deal with identity theft.
I’m always surprised by the number of people who don’t check their credit report each year. If you suspect that someone has tampered with your personal information, don’t delay in ordering your credit reports. annualcreditreport.com will provide you with one free report from each of the bureaus each year. Scan your report and check for unfamiliar accounts. This is the first step in learning how to deal with identity theft.
If a review of your credit report confirms your fear, contact each of the three credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax) and notify them of the fraud. The bureaus will place a fraud alert on your credit report, which prevents a thief from opening additional accounts. The sooner you place a fraud alert on your report, the better. This lessens the damage to your credit history.
Some victims skip this step. But if you don’t want to be liable for expensive fraudulent charges, you need evidence or proof of the crime. You’ll want to contact the local police where the identity theft took place, mostly likely in your home city. Give specific details about the crime, and request a copy of the police report for your personal records.
If the thief stole your credit cards, contact creditors immediately and request a new credit card number. The credit card company will not close out your old account, but assign a new number to your account. Monitor your credit card statement closely. Alert your credit card company to unauthorized charges. By law, you’re not responsible for these charges.
Depending on the extent of the damage, you might need a new Social Security number. Understand, however, this isn’t always necessary. For example, if a thief only stole your credit cards, he probably doesn’t have access to your Social Security number. But if he stole your wallet with your Social Security card inside and applied for loans or credit in your name, contact the Social Security Administration and request a new number.
Even after your credit card company removes unauthorized charges and you apply for a new Social Security number, keep a watchful eye on your credit report. Fraudulent charges can pop up weeks or months after you discover the crime. After ordering your initial credit report, wait a couple of months, and then re-order your report. Check to ensure the accuracy of all information.
If someone steals your wallet with your checks inside, notify your bank immediately. With access to your checks, this person can wipe out your entire bank account. Request a new checking account number. You can also ask the bank to reject any checks that they receive. If money was already taken from your account, file a complaint with your bank for reimbursement.
Nobody wants to think about identity theft, but it’s a real problem. In fact, this type of theft is the fastest growing crime in America. While no one is 100% invincible, a proactive approach can lower your risk of becoming a victim. Have you been a victim of identity theft? How did you handle the situation?
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