It's More Common Than You Think
Identity theft was the No.1 consumer complaint in 2010, according to the Federal Trade Commission [FTC] and it estimates 9 million Americans have their identity stolen each year. And it’s only going to get worse: There are no limits to thieves’ creativity to gain access to personal information. From hacking into businesses’ networks to rummaging through trash--scammers know all the tricks. If you have become a victim, or fear your information has been compromised, there are ways to fight back. Here tips from the FTC to take charge and fight back against identity theft.
Place a Fraud Alert on Your Credit Reports
Notify at least one of the three major credit report companies of your situation. It will place a fraud alert on your credit report as well as notify the other two agencies. Once you file an alert, you are permitted one free copy of your credit history from each of the three agencies. Check each report closely for new accounts, inquiries from unfamiliar companies, and unknown debt, if you spot fraudulent information have the agency remove it from your report.
Close Tampered or Fraudulent Accounts
Notify credit card companies of fraud on any of your accounts. Call and speak with someone from the security department, and be sure to follow up with a certified letter by mail with a return receipt request to document and keep track of what the company received.
File a Police Report
If the scammer opens new accounts or false charges have been reported to any consumer reporting agencies, file a police report and obtain an Identity Theft Report. This report is required to place an extended fraud alert on your credit reports and can block fraudulent information that results from the crime—including addresses and accounts—from appearing on your credit report. The report also gives you certain rights with the credit agencies.
File a Complaint with the FTC
File a complaint by calling the FTC or visiting its Web site. Filing a complaint can provide law enforcement with crucial details to help track down and stop identity thieves.
Take Steps to Minimize Recurrences
Stay on top of your situation: Monitor your accounts, credit reports and read your financial account statements carefully. Follow up with law enforcement officials after three months if you haven’t heard anything and if necessary, reapply a fraud alert to prevent another recurrence of fraud or identity theft.
If you think you’ve fallen victim of identity theft here are steps from the FTC to respond and recover.