What To Do If You Become An Identity Theft Victim
If you have become an Identity Fraud or Identity Theft Victim (crime that has affected 27.3 million Americans in the past 5 years) you must prepare yourself for a long and tiresome battle with credit bureaus, creditors and collection agencies.
Here are some suggestions on what steps an identity theft victim should take:
1 - Contact the Police or Local Sheriff. To assume someone else’s identity is a federal crime (18 USC 1028). A police report can help enormously in getting problems resolved with creditors, so try to get the law enforcement agency to list the affected accounts on the report. Be persistent and bring as much documentation as you can.
2 - Contact the Credit Bureaus by Phone and in Writing. You only need to contact ONE credit bureau for the other two to be notified: Equifax (800-525-6285), Experian (888-397-3742), TransUnion (800-680-7289). The bureaus should supply you with contact information for any creditor that are listed on your credit report. Add a fraud alert to your credit file and make sure it is on for 7 years. You’ll be able to cancel the fraud alert later, since it makes instant credit more difficult to obtain.
3 - Contact the Creditors by Phone and in Writing. When someone else uses your credit or bank accounts to run up charges, the financial institution typically closes the account and issues you a new one. They also issue a form or affidavit to report the fraud.
4 - Contact the Bank and Check Verification Services. You need to close any phony bank accounts the thief has set up in your name and stop payment on any outstanding checks. Contact the major check verification companies to report the fraud. Check Right (800-766-2748), Check Systems (800-428-9623), Certify (800-437-5120), International Check Services (800-526-5380), TeleCheck (800-710-9898).
5 - Contact the Collection Agencies.
Collection Protocols for dealing with identity theft are constantly changing, so you must contact the center for more detail about your rights and the best approaches. Some suggestions on how to deal with the collection agencies:
6 - Keep Notes on All Conversations. Write down dates, times and, if possible, first and last names of everyone you contact. Follow up conversations in writing, with certified letters and return receipt requested. You might be able to get restitution of the hours and costs you are incurring, if the thief is caught.
7 - Get Legal Help. If you feel that your efforts to solve the problem are not working the way it should, it’s time to hire a lawyer. You can get referrals from your local bar, legal aid office, or the National Association of Consumer Advocates (202-452-1989).
Information for identity theft victims is available by the federal Trade Commission at www. consumer.gov/idtheft, or call 1-877-FTC-HELP. Or at the Identity Theft Resource Center at www. Idtheftcenter.org.
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