If your personally identifiable information is being used by someone else for fraudulent or criminal purposes, such as applying for a credit card or obtaining loans in your name, making unauthorized purchases, or gaining access to your bank accounts or other private information, you can follow the steps below:
Always record and retain the date and a summary of any communications with creditors, financial institutions and law enforcement agencies.
For more information on combating identity theft, consult the Federal Trade Commission's comprehensive guide, 'Your National Resource on Identity Theft.'
If you suspect that you may be a victim of identity theft, place a "fraud alert" on your file with one of the three major credit bureaus. The free service issues a special fraud alert message that appears on your credit report, requesting that any creditor contact you by phone at a designated number to verify your identity before opening a new account.
If you call just one of the three major credit bureaus to place a fraud alert, the credit bureau will notify the other two credit bureaus. You will receive a confirming letter from all three credit bureaus. An "Initial Security Alert" lasts 90 days.
If you are certain that you are an identity theft victim, place an "Extended Fraud Victim Alert". This extended alert will remain on your credit report for seven years. You will need to submit a copy of a valid identity theft report that you have filed with a federal, state or local law enforcement agency.
To place a fraud alert with one of the three major credit bureaus, visit their website or call their toll-free numbers:
You can request that the fraud alert be reinstated after the initial period has elapsed at the phone number given on your credit report.
You can remove an alert by calling the credit bureaus at the phone number given on your credit report.
Read this section before you place a fraud alert.
Q: The credit bureau fraud line asked for my Social Security Number. Is it okay to give it?
A: The credit bureaus ask for your SSN and other information in order to identify you and avoid sending your credit report to the wrong person.
However, exercise caution if you did not initiate contact. Take care if someone contacts you regarding an identity theft incident or some other security incident, particularly if the individual requests you to provide personally identifiable information such as your SSN, date of birth or financial account information.
Q: Why can't I talk to someone at the credit bureaus?
A: You must first order your credit reports. When you receive your reports, each one will have a phone number you can call to speak with someone in the bureau's fraud unit. If you see anything on any of your reports that looks unusual or that you don't understand, call the number on the report.
Q: How will a fraud alert affect my ability to use consumer credit?
A: When you place a fraud alert, you will still be able to use your existing credit cards and other financial or credit accounts.
However, it may slow down your ability to get new credit. The purpose of a fraud alert is to help protect you against an identity thief trying to open credit accounts in your name. Credit issuers will see a special message alerting them to the possibility of fraud. Creditors know that they should re-verify the identity of the person applying for credit. You can prove your identity to a prospective creditor by providing additional identifying information.
|Previous Section||Next Section|