Imagine becoming somebody completely different from yourself. These days this transition is easy as taking out the garbage or getting ready for work at the beginning of the day. In 2008, 10 million people were victims of identity theft. If you break that down, it translates 27,397 victims per day, and those are just the ones who reported it. As with any crime, untold amounts of victims exist out there who don’t report the crime because they’re either unaware or too embarrassed to admit it occurred. You should always report crimes to anyone and everyone who can do anything with the information. What you provide to authorities leads to a better understanding of identity theft and the ability to keep the person who stole your identity off the streets.
As soon as you find out you’re a victim of identity theft, you must follow a set of steps to ensure your information isn’t compromised. First, call one of the three credit bureaus (Equifax, TransUnion and Experian) to place a fraud alert on your credit report. No need to call each of them individually. The company you call is required to place an alert to the other two, which will appear on their versions of your credit report. A fraud alert prevents the thief from opening any accounts in your name. Continue to check on your credit report regularly to make sure everything has been fixed.
Next, close accounts that have been compromised or opened without your knowledge. Only close an account if the damage done to it is so severe you couldn’t repair it. Contact a representative from the security or fraud department of the company, follow up in writing using certified mail and keep a record of your exchanges with the company. Use a unique Personal Identification Number (PIN) that avoids information a thief could get when they steal your identity. Once the accounts in question are resolved, ask for a letter documenting their closure. This will be helpful if you’re contacted again regarding the disputed accounts or they rear their ugly head again somehow.
The Federal Trade Commission offers the opportunity to file a complaint, call their Identity Theft Hotline or write the Identity Theft Clearinghouse (identity theft department at their offices in Washington D.C.). All of these avenues lead you to the same destination. A complaint with the FTC provides information that could aid in the capture of identity thieves across the country. They can forward these complaints elsewhere to get a closer look. If you include your printed FTC ID Theft Complaint with your police report, it constitutes an Identity Theft Report, which prevents bogus data from appearing on your credit report, ensures bad debts don’t reappear and protects your credit report with an extended fraud alert.
Identity theft protection services can form a shield between those who want to do harm to you, your reputation and your financial well-being. Your identity and position in society should be yours alone, not the plaything of a common criminal. Rest easy knowing your present and future are in good hands.