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Victims: What to do Right Away
If you become the victim of identity theft, act quickly. This can help limit the damage.
1. Call any business where you know fraud took place. Ask to speak to the fraud department. Say your identity was stolen. Ask for your accounts to be closed or frozen so an identity thief cannot add new charges.
2. Place an initial fraud alert on your files. Contact one of the three major U.S. credit reporting companies to report yourself as a victim of identity theft and to place the initial fraud alert. That one company must tell the other two. Ask the credit reporting company you contact for confirmation when this will be done.
3. Order a credit report. By law, you are entitled to a free copy of your credit report once a year from all three companies. You must contact each individually to order a report. You may wish to order one now and the other two at later times to track new activity or corrections. Immediately review your credit report and note any unfamiliar transactions or accounts. Give this information to the authorities, such as the FTC or the police.
4. File a complaint about the theft with the FTC. You can do this online at ftccomplaintassistant.gov or on the phone at 877-438-4338.
5. File a police report. Go to your local police station, or the police station where the theft occurred. Say you are a victim of identity theft and wish to file a police report. Bring along a copy of your FTC Identity Theft Affidavit, any other proof of identity theft, proof of your address and a government issued photo I.D.
If a police department will not file a report, contact your state Attorney General's office for help.
A fraud alert on your credit report lets lenders and creditors know that they should take steps to verify your identity before they issue you credit. This may help prevent identity thieves from opening new accounts in your name. An initial fraud alert is good for 90 days and may be renewed. You may later choose to place an extended alert, or to place a credit freeze.
Include as much information as possible in your FTC complaint, and follow the instructions carefully. Make sure you save and print your completed complaint. Once it is printed it becomes your Identity Theft Affidavit. The affidavit will be needed to file the police report. Keep a record of the day you filed the complaint, the complaint reference number and make copies of the affidavit. If you need to update your complaint later, you will need your complaint reference number.
The FTC has provided consumers with access to its "Memo To Law Enforcement" that explains the meaning, purpose and importance of an Identity Theft Report to the police. The memo is available at www.identitytheft.gov. Bringing this memo may help you if you find the police are reluctant to have you file a report. You must have a completed Identity Theft Report to prove to businesses that you are an identity theft victim and to exercise all of your rights.
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