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If you want to go on the offensive against fraud, check out these 9 steps you can take:
1. Place a Fraud Alert with a National Credit Reporting Agency (CRA)
Contacting one of the three CRAs reduces the risk of accounts being opened in your name without your authorization. Place the alert by calling either Equifax — (888) 766-0008, Experian — (888) 397-3742 or TransUnion — (800) 680-7289. If you place the alert with one agency, they will notify the other two for you. A fraud alert also affords the right to a free credit report from each credit reporting agency. (See step 9 for more on ordering your credit reports.)
2. Check Your Financial Accounts
Close any accounts that were opened without your permission, and close any of your existing accounts that have seen unauthorized activity.
3. Check Your Computer for Viruses
If you use your computer to access sensitive online accounts, a computer infected with malicious computer programs could allow a hacker to steal sensitive data you may be typing to manage online transactions, such as bank, credit card and other sensitive identification information. If you believe your computer is infected, run your anti-virus program to scan for any viruses that need to be removed.
4. Secure Your Proof of Identity
Expect that you’ll be required to complete and submit an affidavit and provide proof of your identity. The Federal Trade Commission’s ID Theft Affidavit is widely accepted and can be downloaded here.
5. File a Complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
Share information about your situation with the FTC so they can collect it for possible use by law enforcement across the country. You may file online and print a copy to show to the police when you file your report (see step 7). You may also file a complaint by calling the FTC Identity Theft Hotline at (877) IDTHEFT, or (877) 438-4338.
6. File a Police Report
The police may only take the report as a courtesy and not pursue the matter. However, this step is still helpful to you, because you will need proof you reported the matter to the police. Preparing the FTC ID Theft Complaint beforehand will help you organize the pertinent information.
7. Keep a Record of Your Actions
Log the steps you take to address the situation. Include numbers called, names of people you talked to, dates of calls, faxes and mailings. Keep copies of all correspondence, affidavits, reports, etc.
8. Order Credit Reports for Review
If you’ve placed a fraud alert, confirmation letters from the CRAs will tell you how to order a free report. If you chose not to place a fraud alert, use the Annual Credit Report Request Service to obtain a free copy from each CRA. Federal law mandates that one free report from each CRA is available once every 12 months. You can request your credit report online or by calling (877) 322-8228.
Please note: Don’t rush to take this step if the ID theft event happened recently. Creditors may only report to the CRAs monthly. If you discovered credit-related ID theft right as it happened, wait 30 days or more before ordering a report so you don’t miss something that hasn’t been reported yet.
9. Don’t Ignore the Activity
You must take action to prove you are the victim and that you are not the party responsible for the suspicious activity in question.
For more information on what to do if your identity has been stolen, check out the Federal Trade Commission’s “Take Charge: Fighting Back Against Identity Theft,” which provides excellent basic information.