Identity theft is becoming more of a reality than ever before. Credit card companies and banks that issue debit cards are now providing Identity Theft Protection as one of their services. Should you become a victim and someone steals your name or social security number here are some steps you can take to keep the situation under control.
The first thing you should do is contact the fraud department of the three major credit bureaus. Equifax has a toll free number (1-800-525-6285). Experian is another credit bureau and they can be reached at 1-888-397-3742. TransUnion is also one of the big three reporting bureaus and they can be reached at 1-800-680-7289. You want them to flag your file with a fraud alert. Also have the credit bureaus contact you in the future whenever a new account is opened and ask them them for copies of your credit reports.
Next, start calling your creditors, a creditor is the company you have credit card with, not the (credit bureau) and speak with the security or fraud department. Then file a report with the police. You can file it with your local police. Finally, report the identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC can be reached at their toll free number: 1-877-438-4338. You can also ask them for a free publication that talks about identity theft.
Since we are on the topic of credit reports here is a side note you may wish to keep in mind. You can order an annual credit report at http://www.annualcreditreport.com or call 1-877-322-8228. Congress created the Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act in 2003. Consumers are now entitled to a free credit report from each of the three major credit bureau companies every 12 months, the year runs from September 1st to the end of August. To get the best advantage from this Act, request a credit report from just one of the bureaus at a time every four months. There are many other websites that claim to give free credit reports but usually require a fee. Unless you really need to know your credit score keep to the free reports directly from the reporting bureaus. The annual credit report website is the only website that is authorized to give you a free credit report. If you receive an email that claims to be from http://www.annualcreditreport.com you should report it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Most of us receive a lot of credit card advertisements in the mail. They usually say that you are “pre-screened” or “pre-approved”. For the most part these mailings are safe. There is no need to be concerned with identity theft from these companies. If you are responding to one of those mailings, take the letter to the post office personally and have it sent off officially. There is also no need to worry about your credit report being affected by these mailings. There will be no “inquiry” or negative effect on your record. If you are still suspicious of credit or identity theft, contact the opt out organization through the Internet, visit http://www.optout.presreen.com or call 1-888-5-OPTOUT. You can chose to stop receiving mailings anywhere between months and years. But make a mental note that the “pre-screened” offers are not usually open to the public and they are sometimes only offered through the mail.