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Identity Theft

Identity theft can strike YOU even if you've been very careful about keeping your personal information to yourself. If you think that your personal information has been hijacked take immediate action. Keep a record of all conversations and correspondence. All cases and situations of identity theft are different. However, there are three basic actions that you can take in almost every case.

Step One:
Contact the fraud department of each of the three major credit bureaus. Tell them what has happened and request that a "Fraud Alert" be placed in your file, as well as a victim (your) statement asking creditors to call you before opening any new accounts or changing any information to your existing accounts. At the same time order a copy of your credit report. Also, check that section of your credit report that lists "inquiries." If there are any new inquiries that are not by your doing, request that these inquires be removed from your credit report. In a few months reorder another copy of your credit report to verify your corrections and changes and to make sure that no new fraudulent activity has occurred.

Step Two:
Contact any creditors about any accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently. Credit card companies, phone companies, utilities, banks and lenders should all be contacted. Notify these companies in writing and follow all consumer protection guidelines. Immediately close accounts that have been tampered with and open new accounts with new personal identification numbers (PINs) and passwords. Don't use any easily available information such as, your mother's maiden name, your birth date, the last four digits of your social security number, your phone number or a series of consecutive numbers.

Step Three:
File a report with your local Police Department and get a copy of the report in case the bank, credit card company or others need proof of the crime.

Other Helpful Information

Stolen Mail: If an identity thief has stolen your mail to get new credit cards, bank or credit card statements, prescreened credit offers or tax information, or if a thief has falsified change of address forms, that's a crime. Report this to the Police Department and contact your local Post Office and ask to speak to the Postal Inspector.

Change of address on credit card accounts: If the thief has changed the address on your credit card accounts, close the account right away. And once again ask them to contact you if there is any new activity or inquiries to your new account.

Bank Accounts: If you believe or fear that someone has tampered with your bank account, checking account, or ATM card, close those accounts immediately. In addition, if your checks have been stolen or misused, stop payment right away. Also contact the major check verification companies to request that they notify retailers using their databases not to accept these checks.

The three major check verification companies are:

Investments: If you believe someone has information about your investments, immediately report it to your broker or account manager.

Phone Services: If a thief has established a new phone service in your name, or is making unauthorized calls billed to you, is using your cell phone number, or your calling card and PIN, contact your service providers right a way and cancel your accounts. To get fraudulent phone charges removed from your bill contact your state Public Service Commission, for in state calls, and call the FCC for long distance and cell calls.

Employment: If someone is using your social security number to apply for a job or to work, that is a crime. Report it to the Social Security Administration's Fraud hotline at 1-800-269-0271. Also call SSA, 1-800-772-1213, to verify the accuracy of the earnings reported on your SSN and request a copy of your social security statement. Follow up all calls in writing.

Department of Motor Vehicles: If someone has used your SSN to obtain a drivers license or non-drivers ID, contact the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Bankruptcy: If someone has filed for bankruptcy using your information, write to the U.S. Trustee in the region where the bankruptcy was filed. Your letter should describe the situation in detail and you should provide proof of your identity. You may also want to file a complaint with the U.S. Attorney and/or the FBI in the City where the bankruptcy was filed.

Arrests/Records: If someone using your identity is arrested and uses your name, you may need to hire an Attorney to help you resolve the problem.

Should I apply for a new Social Security Number? Contact the SSA and they, in some cases, will assign you a new SSN. However, the new SSN may not solve your identity theft problems and could actually create new problems. Seek guidance in this matter.

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