How Do I Protect Myself if I'm a Victim of Identity Theft?
What do do if you have become the victim of identity theft.
Related Link: Preventing identity theft of a deceased relative.
Contact the three major credit bureaus to report the fraud and request your credit reports
Ask that a fraud alert be put on your file.This signals creditors and lenders to contact you for verification when someone tries to open up a new credit account in your name. There are two types of fraud alerts. An "initial fraud alert" lasts for 90 days, while an "extended fraud alert" lasts for seven years and requires that you submit an "identity theft report". Fraud alerts are free.
An even stronger protection against a fraudulent account being opened in your name is placing a security freeze (or "credit freeze") on your credit reports. With a freeze in place, the information in your credit report will not be released to anyone. Since most creditors will not open a new account if they cannot first review your credit history, this measure makes it almost impossible for an identity thief to open an account in your name.
A credit freeze remains in effect until you contact the credit bureau and request that it be removed. Note: if you are seeking a loan, new credit card, utility or insurance account, you may need to temporarily lift the freeze in order to get credit approval. Credit freezes are free to Georgia consumers who have been victims of identity theft.
Get a copy of your credit report from each of the credit reporting agencies. Review them carefully for any unauthorized charges or accounts. Ask the credit reporting agencies to remove any information that appears as a result of the identity theft. Also ask each credit reporting agency to send you a copy of your corrected credit report so that you can verify that the erroneous information has been removed and that each report contains a fraud alert.
Contact your banks and creditors
Close any accounts that you know or suspect were compromised and ask for replacement cards with new account numbers and PINs. Find out if there have been any unauthorized charges or unusual requests such as change-of-address or requests for additional or replacement credit cards. Instruct the card issuer not to honor any requests regarding your card without your written authorization. Send a follow-up letter confirming the conversation and the action the credit card issuer has agreed to take, and keep a copy of the letter. Your liability for unauthorized credit card charges cannot exceed $50 per federal law. Many creditors will even waive the $50 if the victim provides documentation indicating identity theft (such as a police report).
If personal checks have been lost or stolen, notify your bank immediately and have "stop payments" placed on the missing checks. You can also contact the major check verification companies to request that they notify retailers using their database not to accept the stolen checks:
Report the crime to your local police
In addition, if the crime took place in a different locale, you should report it to law enforcement officials there. Keep a copy of the report for your files. Creditors, banks, credit reporting agencies and insurance companies may require a police report to verify the crime of identity theft.
If your driver's license or other ID has been stolen, contact the issuing agency and find out how to cancel the document and get a replacement.
Utilities & Services
Notify your gas, electric, water, cable and trash utilities that you are the victim of identity theft, and alert them to the possibility that the thief may try to establish new accounts using your identification information. Give similar notice to the providers of your local, long-distance and cellular telephone service. Ask the utility and telephone services to use a new unique identifier for your accounts. Do not use your mother's maiden name, since this information is available in public records.
File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission
The FTC oversees the operation of credit bureaus, maintains an identity theft database, and provides assistance for identity theft victims. You can find a great deal of helpful information on its website, including the text of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (under Consumer Information/ Laws/ Credit) and a complaint form that can be transmitted to the FTC via the Internet.