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What to Do if Your Identity is Stolen

Identity Theft

Determining what to do if you identity is stolen unfortunately means that you have become the victim of identity thieves. Perhaps you will solace in not being alone: Officials estimated more than 10 million identity theft victims in 2009, a sharp increase over the previous year. Your next steps are crucial and should be taken immediately, as you begin the process of canceling the affected accounts and restoring your credit standing.

  • Contact the three credit reporting agencies. While it is very likely that the first of the three agencies - Experian, Equifax or TransUnion - will contact the others, don't rely on that. By notifying the credit reporting agencies, a couple of things automatically happen: First, a temporary fraud alert is established on your file. Second, you will no longer receive pre-approved credit offers. You can, if you want, ask for that protection to be dropped if you want to get pre-approved offers.
  • Ask for an extended fraud alert. This should be done in writing by first class mail, and you should request a return receipt, so you have proof that each of the agencies received your request. An extended fraud alert remains on your record for 7 years. This requires creditors to make sure they have your permission before adding any new accounts - making future identity theft attempts very difficult. Additionally, you will automatically be eligible for two free credit reports in the next 12 months.
  • Write a victim statement. The statement is your explanation of the identity theft situation and can be added to your file with each of the credit reporting agencies.
  • Cancel any affected accounts. The process of what to do if your identity is stolen also includes the immediate cancellation of any affected accounts. This should also involve first-class mail and a return receipt. Make sure you deal with the fraud or security department and follow all rules for canceling accounts. When you open new accounts, make sure you use different passwords, and come up with unique passwords for each account you have.
  • Contact the FTC. Investigators with the FTC don't work on individual cases, focusing instead on trends and patterns and looking for rings - criminals responsible for unusually large numbers of identity thefts. You also can get an ID Theft Affidavit, which can be used as proof of your identity theft to send to your creditors.
  • Make a police report. While officials recognize that only a small percentage of identity thieves are arrested by law enforcement officials, the police report notifies your local authorities and also offers you additional proof of the incident for creditors and officials.
  • Check your credit reports. Remember that any guide of what to do if your identity is stolen can't be complete without a look forward. Be sure to use the free reports with the three agencies to regularly check your credit reports to make sure there are no new accounts or derogatory entries for failure to pay accounts you may not recognize.

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