Each year, hundreds of thousands of Americans fall victim to identity theft. While incredible advances in technology have changed the way that we do everything from shopping to catching up with friends, they have also exposed us to new security threats.
If you find yourself a victim of identity theft, here are some steps you should take immediately to lessen the impact that it has on your financial and personal life:
Contact all three major credit bureaus –
Equifax - 800.525.6285
Experian - 888.397.3742
TransUnion - 800.680.7289
Report that your identity has been stolen and request that each credit bureau place a fraud alert on your credit report. A fraud alert will ensure that nobody is able to apply for credit in your name without the credit bureau contacting you – at a phone number you will give them – to verify that it is, in fact, you. Request a copy of your credit report from each credit bureau and check carefully for any inaccuracies and changes/inquiries that you did not initiate.
If accounts have been opened fraudulently, contact those creditors, lenders, or institutions immediately – Accounts that a fraudster can open with your stolen information can range from a home phone to a credit card and other larger loans. No matter the account or size of the loan, it is important that you speak with the fraud/loss prevention department of that company or lender and explain to them the situation.
If you feel that your own banking information has been compromised, contact those institutions that you bank with to go over your options and try to negotiate a compromise agreement. Each institution should know the best course of action to protect your accounts and financial information.
File a report with the local police or the police department where the identity theft took place – Get a copy of the report in case the credit union, bank, lender, or others need proof of the crime at a later date.
Regardless of the level of identity theft, it is vital that you take immediate steps to prevent it from causing major damage.