Identity theft can cause you all sorts of serious problems. If you feel you are a victim of it, it is important for you to protect yourself. Here are some of the most effective ways you can do this:
Report Identity Theft to Federal Authorities
The first thing you should do if you think your identity has been stolen is contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). You can contact them either at (877) 438-4338 or through their special website. This will ensure that you will be able to remove fraud from your credit report.
By filing a report with the FTC, you usually do not need to file a separate report with your local police. They can also provide you with a list of things you can do to repair any damage that has been done to you.
If you believe the theft of your identity was carried out through stolen mail, you should further contact the U.S. Postal Service.
Place Fraud Alerts
It is vitally important to contact the 3 major credit bureaus if you think you are a victim of identity theft and place fraud alerts with them. This will ensure that any credit applications in your name receive additional scrutiny.
Creating a fraud alert is free of charge and lasts 90 days, and you also get a free credit report along with it. To file an alert, simply contact the following 3 credit bureaus:
- Equifax: (800) 525-6285 or https://www.equifax.com/CreditReportAssistance
- Experian: (888) 397-3742 or https://www.experian.com/fraudalert
- TransUnion: (800) 680-7289 or https://www.transunion.com/fraud
Contact Relevant Businesses
If you spot fraudulent charges on any of your credit cards, you should contact the issuers at once. By doing so, usually you will not be liable for any of these charges. The credit card companies will then likely issue you new cards with new numbers. So, make sure you afterward update any recurring payments you make.
If you find fraudulent charges on any of your credit reports, contact the bureau immediately and file a dispute.
If you discover that an identity thief has opened a new account, you should contact the company as well and get them to close it. If they ask you for written notification, the FTC has a sample letter you can use to craft your own.
Finally, you should keep track of all company communications. Note dates and times, the person you communicated with and what you were told to do.
Make Use of Advanced Credit Protections
If want to take stronger measures against identity theft, you can consider placing a credit freeze with the 3 credit bureaus, which is also free of charge. This lets you restrict access to your credit report, but it can be inconvenient and could lead to you being denied credit.
You can also extend your fraud alert for 7 years. But do so you will have to provide the 3 credit bureaus with written documentation that includes an identity theft report. We have found one of the best ways to avoid identity theft is to make sure that you are properly purging documents from your home by shredding or destroying in safe manner. However, if you are a victim we hope this helps you get some relief.