In this two part series we’ll discuss what to do to avoid becoming a victim and immediate steps to take if you do become a victim.
- Immediately close accounts, like credit cards and bank accounts, and when you open new accounts, place passwords on them (see Part 1, #3).
- Call the three major credit bureaus and place an initial fraud alert (see below) or a credit freeze on your accounts to help prevent anyone from opening new credit accounts in your name.
- Report a lost or stolen driver’s license or any other government-issued identification to the agency that issued the document and follow their procedures to cancel it and get a replacement. Ask the agency to flag your file so that no one else can get a license or any other identification document in your name.
- Finally, if your information is stolen or misused, always file a report with the police. This will help you dispute fraudulent accounts, debts, and claims against you. If the police are hesitant to file an identity theft report, ask that they file a miscellaneous incident report or check with another jurisdiction such as the state police or the sheriff’s department.
Once you have taken these precautions, watch for signs that your information is being misused. Investigate further if you:
- fail to receive bills or other mail. If this happens, follow up with creditors. A missing bill could mean an identity thief has taken over your account and changed your billing address to cover his/her tracks.
- receive credit cards you did not apply for.
- are denied credit, or you are offered less than favorable credit terms for no apparent reason.
- are getting calls or letters from debt collectors or businesses about merchandise or services you did not buy.
Arm yourself with as much information as possible to prevent identity theft. Check out the Free Stuff on the Squeeze website to download a Special Report: Fighting Back Against Identity Theft. Remember, no one will care quite as much about your good name as you do, so it’s up to you to be proactive and protect it daily.
Have you been a victim of identity theft or do you know someone who has? Can you add some information or steps to the ones above? If so, send them to me so that I can add them to the list. ps!
What’s an Initial Fraud Alert?
You can ask for an initial fraud alert (IFA) to be placed on your credit report if you suspect you have been, or are about to be, a victim of identity theft. An IFA stays on your credit report for a minimum of 90 days and is appropriate if your wallet has been stolen or if you’ve been taken in by a scam, such as a “phishing” scam that targets your personal information via email. When you place an IFA on your credit report, you are entitled to a free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus.
Equifax: 1-800-525-6285; www.equifax.com;P.O. Box 740241,Atlanta,GA30374-0241
Experian: 1-888-397-3742; www.experian.com;P.O. Box 9532,Allen,TX75013
TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289; www.transunion.com; Fraud Victim Assistance Division,P.O. Box 6790,Fullerton,CA92834-6790