A stolen identity can be devastating. It can harm your credit. It can rob you of money and your precious time and energy. Though you may do everything possible to prevent identity theft, thieves are always on the prowl for a new way to steal from you. Here are some steps you can take if you suspect your identity has been stolen or compromised.
- Contact one of the three credit bureaus to let them know what’s happening. They can place a fraud alert on your credit report which will prevent new accounts from being opened in your name. You can do this even if you’re not 100% certain there has been identity theft. It’s better to be cautious than allow yourself to be further compromised. You only need to alert one bureau – the alert will be spread to the others.
- Contact your bank, credit card companies, other lenders, and insurance companies. Let them know what happened. You’ll want to close existing accounts and open new one with new, secure PINs (Personal Identification Numbers) and passwords.
- About a month after you uncover the identity theft incident, request a free credit report (victims of identity theft are entitled to one, even if it’s been less than a year since their last one). Look for suspicious activity such as accounts you didn’t open, suspicious inquiries, debts that are not yours, or changes to your persona information such as name, date of birth, social security number, or address.
- File a police report. This will be the proof the credit agencies will need to investigate the fraudulent activity.
- Work with the lenders who and the credit reporting agencies to remove the fraudulent activity and reverse fraudulent charges.
Once you’ve been the victim of identity theft, you’ll want to monitor your credit reports regularly (you really should do that anyway!) to make sure no new fraudulent activity appears. Staying vigilant will help catch additional fraud quickly so as not to jeopardize your credit score.
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