Identity Theft - Every Minute Counts

Act Rapidly to Combat Suspected Identity Theft

If you lose a credit card, or suspect that your identity has been compromised, take action immediately.  Sometimes identity thieves will not necessarily use the information they have obtained immediately.  They may wait 30-60 days (or longer) before acting to compromise your credit.

Step One:
Contact the financial institutions where the fraud has been or could be perpetrated.  Depending on the severity to which your identity has been compromised, you may need to close your checking, savings, and credit accounts.  New account numbers, checks, cards, pins and passwords will be issued to you.  This will stop any automatic payments and/or deductions, and direct deposits you may have linked to your previous account, so you will need to re-establish them.

Step Two:
Contact the Credit Reporting agencies.  You only need to contact one of the three agencies: www.equifax.com, www.experian.com, www.transunion.com and a "Fraud Alert" will be placed on your account with all three. The fraud alert essentially tells them to ask additional questions, and make follow-up phone calls, to ascertain the identity of those asking for new accounts to be opened. You yourself will have to deal with the additional hassle of the increased security, but it is well worth the increased safety.  More information on how to use these services can be obtained at www.consumer.gov/idtheft.  Contacting the agencies is essential to work with them on striking fraudulent accounts and activities from your credit report.

Step Three:
Contact your local police department, and ask for a copy of a police report about the fraud, which is essential for you to have in the following procedures necessary in identifying the theft, and especially in getting your money back and credit rating improved! If the police do not initially feel it is necessary to write a report, be persistent, keep going back until you get one. With identity theft becoming an increasing problem, you shouldn't have too much difficulty, but you might need to do some educating on the issue to increase awareness. In addition, a police report will make it mandatory for companies and financial institutions to release to you the documents used to commit the fraud. If mail fraud is involved, you also need to call the Postal Inspection Service or report it at www.usps.com

Step Four:
Contact the federal trade commission at 1-877-IDTHEFT or www.consumer.gov/idtheft.  This website has a lot of tools for you to use to follow up on the theft, and allows them to track and prosecute recurrent identity thieves.   In addition, the website has a multitude of helpful forms, like sample letters to send to creditors to dispute fraudulent accounts and standard affidavits you can use to send to multiple financial institutions.

Step Five:
Once you have initiated the fraud reporting process, it is important to keep a copy of all letters you send or receive, and all documents indicating fraudulent use.  After you have resolved all the immediate issues dealing with the theft of your identity, you should pull a credit report on a periodic basis to ensure that the problem hasn't resurfaced

Identity Theft - Overview