If you suspect you are a victim of Identity Theft, Fraud on your account, or if you detect suspicious activity, you may want to take the following action:
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- Institute a Fraud Alert on your credit. Before anyone can get a new credit card or loan in your name (including you!), a lender will check your credit at one of the nationís three credit bureaus.
- Consider freezing your credit. This locks down your credit file so no one can see it, and no one can grant credit in your name. Only after a detailed "thawing" process can a consumer open the credit file for credit granting purposes. Unfortunately, only a few states allow a credit freeze, and they can cost money. But itís the only thing a consumer can do proactively to really prevent against identity theft. Equifax offers a great state-by-state chart at a special Web site.
- Check your monthly statements. This is the one piece of advice that may not be very useful. An ID thief who happens upon a set of data like this VA data ó dates of birth, names, and Social Security numbers ó is very unlikely to drain your bank account or run up charges on your credit card. It would take a lot of work to find that information and connect it to your Social Security number. Rather, this thief would set about creating new accounts instead. He or she would just use the data to fill out credit card applications, get cell phones, or obtain other new credit. So checking your existing monthly statements, while always a good idea, isnít much help in this case. The only way to pick up that new account kind of fraud is by regularly checking your credit report.
- Regularly check your credit report. Every American is entitled to one free copy of their credit report every year at www.annualcreditreport.com. Thatís three looks altogether, since you can get one copy from each bureau. So a strategy is to spread those three out every four months. Since the reports largely overlap, thatís a great way to see if thereís any new accounts on there that donít belong.
- Not every identity theft is revealed on credit reports. Social Security number-only ID theft, often utilized by illegal immigrants, will not show up on a credit report.
- The Federal Trade Commission recommends the following four steps if you detect suspicious activity:
Step 1 - Contact the fraud department of one of the three major credit bureaus:
Step 2 - Close any accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.
Step 3 - File a police report with your local police or the police in the community where the identity theft took place.
Step 4 - File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission by using the FTC's
Identity Theft Hotline by telephone: 1-877-438-4338, online at
, or by mail at Identity Theft Clearinghouse,
Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington DC 20580
P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742);
P.O. Box 9532, Allen, Texas 75013
Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790