The 7 Things You Must Do If You Believe You Are A Victim Of Identity Theft

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

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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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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:

  1. 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
    personal approval.

  2. 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.

  3. 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
    your credit.

  4. 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

  5. File an ID Theft Complaint with the Federal Trade Commission
    (FTC). They maintain a database of identity thefts.

    Download and complete the FTC’s href=""
    target="_blank">Identity Theft Affidavit.

    Get it notarized.

    This is especially useful if someone has opened a new account
    in your name, rather than hijacked an existing account.

    The FTC
    is a great resource for guidance on ID theft.

  6. 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)

  7. 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:

  8. Don’t panic or lose your temper; you’ll waste time.

  9. Be prepared to spend a lot of time sorting things out;
    never give up; be absolutely meticulous.

  10. 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="">Identity Theft
    Information Center.

  11. 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.

    If your wallet or credit card was stolen, you can find
    additional tips in our article: href="">What to Do if Your Credit
    Card or Wallet is Stolen.

    Time to conclude for today — have a great week!