Key steps to take if you’re a victim of identity theft that limit the damage and get you back on track: Internet Scambusters #285
Today we recommend you begin by visiting this week’s issue of
What’s New in Scams? — now.
Identity theft causes misery for millions of people every year.
The nightmare gets worse when people don’t know what to do to
combat the crime if they are victims.
Today, we highlight 7 of the most important things you must do
to limit the damage caused by identity theft scammers. We
explain who you need to notify and what documentation you must
Plus, we’ve added some bonus tips on how to make the process go
smoothly and keep your sanity!
And before we begin, we encourage you to take a look at this
week’s most popular articles from our other sites:
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Busting the Myths About Memory Improvement! Steer clear of these quick-fix myths for
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Can Online Pet Medications Really Save You Money? Before you jump
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How to Make Good Photo Books Better: Make your
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Let’s get started…
The 7 Things You Must Do If You Believe
You Are A Victim Of Identity Theft
Identity theft — it’s a moment we all dread happening. You get
a credit card statement packed with things you didn’t buy. Or a
bill collection agency contacts you for overdue debts you
didn’t run up. Or you apply for a loan only to find what you
thought was your great credit record has been wrecked.
These are just some of the ways you might discover you’re the
victim of identity theft — when someone steals your personal
financial details, like credit card and Social Security numbers
and then passes themselves off as you while they go on a
spending spree or even assume your identity for employment.
Once you get over the initial shock of discovery though, there
are several key things you can do to limit the impact of the
crime, to minimize your own personal financial loss and to get
your credit record — and your life — back on the rails as
soon as possible.
We’ve compiled a list of 7 of the most important things you
should do as soon as you know you’re the victim of identity
theft. This isn’t legal advice — we recommend you talk to your
attorney if you are an ID theft victim.
Nonetheless, here are 7 things to do as quickly as you can:
Tell the major credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax and
TransUnion. Call them or visit their websites. Don’t rely, as
some suggest, on one agency promising to tell the others.
Request free copies of your current reports, telling the
bureaus you think you’re the victim of identity fraud. Ask them
to issue a credit freeze or fraud alert and add a statement to
your credit record. New credit can’t be issued without your
Tell the Social Security Administration if the thief has or
may have access to your Social Security number. Call the SSA
Fraud Hotline at 800-269-0271.
If it’s possible someone has used your identity to get
employment, request and check your Social Security and Earnings
Benefit Statement for jobs you’ve never had. Work with the SSA
to unravel what has happened and correct your records. A new
Social Security number is almost impossible to get.
Tell the Police. File an Identity Theft Report and make sure
you get a copy that you can, in turn, copy and send to the
credit bureaus and anyone who claims you owe them money.
Sometimes these can be filed online.
This is actually very important. Although you probably won’t
get much police action (sadly, ID theft is just too common a
crime — it happens to too many people every year and the
police don’t have the resources to follow through), there are
two reasons filing a report is still important.
First, if the police are able to find an identity thief, your
report can be instrumental in prosecuting them. Second, you’ll
need the police report as documentation as you try to rebuild
Tell your bank, credit card or store card companies. Close
accounts that have been tampered with. If in doubt, close it.
Important: Insist they tag closed accounts with the word
‘closed at customer’s request'; other wording like ‘card
stolen’ can affect your credit rating. Cancel any stolen
File an ID Theft Complaint with the Federal Trade Commission
(FTC). They maintain a database of identity thefts.
Get it notarized.
This is especially useful if someone has opened a new account
in your name, rather than hijacked an existing account.
website is a great resource for guidance on ID theft.
Tell everyone else: make sure to notify every single
organization whose membership/ID cards, customer numbers or
other property may have been stolen. These might include:
Your cell phone company
The DMV (for driver’s license)
The US Postal Service (if your address is being used
The US State Department (for passports)
Your health insurer
Even your local library
Utility companies, city or county authorities (if your
identity has been used to obtain their services)
Change all passwords and pin numbers on any accounts or
cards you are 100% certain are not compromised.
There are a number of other things you might want to do,
depending on the circumstances — like checking your house deed
records or other documents where thieves may have forged
Important: keep a written record of everything you do, everyone
you deal with, the names of the people you speak with (always
get their names), the dates and times you spoke to them, their
phone numbers and any other reference numbers they give you.
Ensure you have documentation for every disputed purchase or
debt — from the card companies and any creditors who say you
owe them money. Keep all of these documents forever.
And when the whole thing is over, go back to the credit bureaus
and work with them to rebuild your credit record accurately if
it has been damaged.
Above all, follow these rules throughout the process:
Don’t panic or lose your temper; you’ll waste time.
Be prepared to spend a lot of time sorting things out;
never give up; be absolutely meticulous.
If you know how the theft happened, take whatever steps are
necessary to make sure it doesn’t occur again. You can find
more information on identity theft at our href="http://www.scambusters.org/identitytheft.html">Identity Theft
With effort and a sprinkling of good luck, you can put this
whole experience behind you and start anew, with your sanity
intact and your finances in the recovery room.
Time to conclude for today — have a great week!