September 24, 2009
If you're a victim of identity theft, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation's consumer protection agency, recommends that you take the following four steps as soon as possible, and keep records of your conversations and copies of all correspondence.

1) Contact the Fraud Departments of Any One of the Three Major Credit Bureaus:

Fraud alerts can help prevent an identity thief from opening any more accounts in your name. You only need to contact one of the three following companies to place an alert.

Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
P.O. Box 740241,
Atlanta, GA 30374- 0241

Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742)
P.O. Box 9532,
Allen, TX 75013

: 1-800-680-7289
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 Social Security Number (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, such as your SSN, address(es), name or initials, and employers is correct. If you find fraudulent or inaccurate information, 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.

2) Close the Affected Accounts:

You will need to speak with someone in the security or fraud department of each company that you know, or believe has been tampered with or opened fraudulently.

Prepare a list of questions to ask the representative, as well as information about your identity theft. Don't end the call until you're sure you understand everything you've been told. If you need more help, ask to speak to a supervisor.

Write down the name and phone number of everyone you talk to, what he or she tells you, and the date the conversation occurred.

Follow up in writing, and include copies (NOT originals) of supporting documents. It's important to notify credit card companies and banks in writing. Send your letters by certified mail, return receipt requested, so you can document what the company received and when. Keep a file of your correspondence and enclosures.

When you open new accounts, use new Personal Identification Numbers (PINs) and passwords. Avoid using easily available information such as 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.

If the identity thief has made charges or debits to your accounts, or to fraudulently opened accounts, ask the company for the forms to dispute those transactions. Also request the transaction records relating to the identity theft, such as the fraudulent credit application.

Once you have resolved your identity theft dispute with the company, ask for a letter stating that the company has closed the disputed accounts and has discharged the fraudulent debts. This letter can help you if errors relating to this account reappear on your credit report or you are contacted again about the fraudulent debt.

3) File a Police Report:

Get a copy or number of the police report. It can help you deal with creditors who need proof of the crime.

4) File Your Complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC):

By sharing your identity theft complaint with the FTC, you will provide important information that can help law
enforcement officials across the nation track down identity thieves and stop them.
The FTC can refer victims' complaints to other government agencies and companies for further action, as well as
investigate companies for violations of laws the agency enforces.
You can file a complaint several different ways:

Online at

Call FTC's Identity Theft Hotline at 1-877-IDTHEFT (438-4338); TTY: 1-866-653- 4261; or

Write to Identity Theft Clearinghouse, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington,
DC 20580.

Call the Hotline to update your complaint if you have additional information if you have any additional information or problems.

5) Staying Alert

Once resolved, most cases of identity theft stay resolved. But occasionally, some victims have recurring problems. To stay on top of the situation, continue to monitor your credit reports and read your financial account statements promptly and carefully. You may want to review your credit reports once every three months in the first year of the theft, and once a year thereafter.

Topic: Advice