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Keeping Credit Safe

Many people are falling victim to a unique breed of criminals known as “identity thieves.”  These are burglars, by all definition of the word, who operate in both the physical and virtual worlds, searching for opportunities to steal valuable personal information that belongs to someone else.  A skilled identity thief can quickly assume an individual’s identity to conduct numerous crimes, such as opening new bank accounts and writing bad checks; establishing new credit card accounts and not paying on the balance; obtaining personal or car loans and conducting cash advances on credit cards.

While identity theft can occur in a number of different ways, you can minimize your risk by keeping close watch on your credit report.  The law allows all consumers to order one free credit report from each of the three nationwide credit bureaus once a year.  You can order by calling 1-877-322-8228 or by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com.

If You Become A Victim of Identity Theft

Step 1: Contact Credit Bureaus

Immediately place a "fraud alert" on your credit reports with a toll-free call to one of the three national credit bureaus (see below for contact information). Fraud alerts can stop an identity thief from opening any more accounts in your name. They also ensure you will be contacted before any new account is opened or an existing account is changed.

Note that one call to any of the three credit bureaus will be enough to place your fraud alert—the company you call is required to contact the other two. Within twenty-four hours, all three of the bureaus will be on alert.

When placing a fraud alert, be sure to have the following information available to prove your identity:

  • Name
  • Social Security number
  • Address

Equifax
www.equifax.com
800-525-6285 (Fraud Hotline)
800-685-1111 (Report Order)
P.O. Box 740250
Atlanta, GA 30374

Experian
www.experian.com
888-397-3742 (Fraud Hotline)
888-397-3742 (Report Order)
P.O. Box 9556
Allen, TX 75013

TransUnion
www.transunion.com
800-680-7289 (Fraud Hotline)
800-916-8800 (Report Order)
P.O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92634


Step 2: File A Police Report

Your report should be filed with your local police or the police where the identity theft took place.  Keep a copy of the report or the report number as proof of the crime. It can help you deal with creditors and file Identity Theft Reports.


Step 3: Close Your Accounts

You should close any accounts that have been tampered with or opened without your permission.  Call and speak with someone in the security or fraud department of each creditor and describe your identity theft problem. Follow up with a letter or affidavit—be sure to include copies (not originals) of supporting documents. It's important to notify credit card companies and banks in writing.


Step 4: File A Complaint With the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)

The FTC handles complaints from victims of identity theft, provides information to those victims, and refers complaints to major credit reporting and law enforcement agencies. The FTC can also refer your complaint to other government agencies and companies for further action, as well as investigate companies for violations of laws the agency enforces.

Take advantage of the FTC ID Theft Affidavit when disputing new unauthorized accounts.  This is a special tool developed to help simplify the ID theft reporting process for consumers.  The ID Theft Affidavit is a standard form that can be used by victims to report the same information to different companies, such as the three major credit bureaus, and other banks or creditors where an account has been opened and/or used under the victim’s name.

For a copy of the ID Theft Affidavit, visit www.ftc.gov or call 1-877-ID-THEFT.  
TTY:  1-866-653-4261

 

Learn more about identity theft with an online tutorial:

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