Money Monday

first_imgBy Dr. Barbara O’NeillI just discovered I’m the victim of identity theft. What do I do now?If you suspect that your personal information has been used to commit fraud or theft, you should take the following four steps right away.1. Contact the fraud department of one of the three major credit bureaus. Request that a “fraud alert” be placed on your file, and include a statement that creditors must get your permission before any new accounts are opened in your name. Once the credit bureau confirms your fraud alert, the other two credit bureaus will automatically be notified to place fraud alerts on your credit report, and all three reports will be sent to you free of charge so that you can dispute any inaccurate information.The three major credit bureaus are:Equifax: To report fraud, call 1-800-525-6285, and write: P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241. Web site: www.equifax.com.Experian: To report fraud, call 1-888-397-3742, and write P.O. Box 9532, Allen, TX 75013. Web site: www.experian.com.TransUnion: To report fraud, call 1-800-680-7289, and write: Fraud Victims Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790. Web site: www.transunion.com.Once you receive your credit reports, review them carefully for any inaccuracies. Notify the credit bureau as soon as possible by telephone and in writing should you find any errors. You should check your reports periodically, especially in the first year after you’ve discovered the theft, to make sure no fraudulent activity has occurred.2. Contact all creditors involved. Credit accounts include all accounts with banks, credit card companies and other lenders, phone companies, utilities, and other service providers. Let them know that your accounts may have been used without your permission or that new accounts have been opened in your name. If your accounts have been used fraudulently, close those accounts, and ask that new cards and account numbers be issued to you.Be sure to use new Personal Identification Numbers (PINs) and passwords. Check your billing statements carefully, and report any fraudulent activity immediately. Many banks and creditors will accept the “ID Theft Affidavit” available at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft to dispute the fraudulent charges. If they don’t, ask them to send you the company’s fraud dispute forms.3. File a report with your local police or the police in the community where the identity theft occurred. Keep a copy of the report. Your creditors may want a copy to validate your claims. If you can’t get a copy, at least get the report number.4. File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC provides useful information to identity theft victims and maintains a database of identity theft cases for use by law enforcement agencies. To file a report with the FTC, call their Identity Theft Hotline at 1-877-IDTHEFT (438-4338); by mail at, Identity Theft Clearinghouse, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20580; or online at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft//.You may also want to request a copy of the publication, “ID Theft: When Bad Things Happen to Your Good Name.” Remember to keep a record of all of your contacts. Start a file with copies of your credit reports, the police report, any correspondence, and copies of disputed bills. You may also want to keep a log of your conversations with creditors, law enforcement officials, and any other relevant contacts. Be sure to follow up all phone calls in writing, and send all correspondence certified mail, return receipt requested.Military personnel can also have their credit “frozen” during deployment. This ensures that any attempts to open new credit cards or to increase a credit limit under the service member’s name is carefully scrutinized by lenders. This freeze can be put in place for 1 year, and will remove the service member from pre-screened credit card offers for up to 2 years. Active Duty Alerts also help service members by protecting their credit report for 1 year. For more information on both options, visit the N.C. Department of Justice’s ID Theft Tips for Military Personnel.Browse more military personal finance webinars and articles by experts.Follow Dr. O’Neill on Twitter!This post was published on the Military Families Learning Network Blog on July 22, 2013last_img

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