If you've lost personal information or identification, or if it has been stolen from you, you can minimize the potential for identity theft if you act quickly.
- Financial accounts: Close accounts, like credit card and bank accounts, immediately. When you open new accounts, place passwords on them. Avoid using your mother's maiden name, your birth date, the last four digits of your SSN or your phone number, or a series of consecutive numbers.
- Social Security number: Call the toll-free fraud number of any of the three nationwide consumer-reporting companies and place an initial fraud alert on your credit reports (see page19). An alert can help stop someone from opening new credit accounts in your name.
- Driver's license/other government-issued identification: Contact the agency that issued the license or other identification document. Follow its procedures to cancel the document and to get a replacement. Ask the agency to flag your file so that no one else can get a license or any other identification document from them in your name.
Once you have taken these precautions, watch for signs that your information is being misused, and that your identity has been stolen. If your information has been misused, file a report about the theft with the police, and file a complaint with the FTC, as well. If another crime was committed -- for example, if your purse or wallet was stolen or your house or car was broken into -- report it to the police immediately.
IDENTITY THEFT VICTIMS: IMMEDIATE STEPSIf you are a victim of identity theft, take the following four steps as soon as possible, and keep records of your conversations and copies of all correspondence. You also should get a copy of the FTC publication, Take Charge: Fighting Back Against Identity Theft, a comprehensive guide that describes what to do, your legal rights, how to handle specific problems you may encounter on the way to clearing your name, and what to watch for in the future. The guide also includes the ID Theft Affidavit to help you report information to many companies. For more information, see www.consumer.gov/idtheft.
1. Place a fraud alert on your credit reports, and review your credit reports. Fraud alerts can help prevent an identity thief from opening any more accounts in your name. Contact the toll-free fraud number of any of the three consumer reporting companies below to place a fraud alert on your credit report. You need to contact only one of the three companies to place an alert. The company you call is required to contact the other two, which will place an alert on their versions of your report, too.
- Equifax: 1-800-525-6285; www.equifax.com; P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
- Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742); www.experian.com; P.O. Box 9532, Allen, TX 75013
- TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289; www.transunion.com; Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790
Once you place the fraud alert in your file, you're entitled to order free copies of your credit reports, and, if you ask, only the last four digits of your SSN will appear on your credit reports. Once you get your credit reports, review them carefully. Look for inquiries from companies you haven't contacted, accounts you didn't open, and debts on your accounts that you can't explain. Check that information like your SSN, address(es), name or initials, and employers are correct. If you find fraudulent or inaccurate information, contact the consumer reporting companies to get it removed. Continue to check your credit reports periodically, especially for the first year after you discover the identity theft, to make sure no new fraudulent activity has occurred.