Protect your identity
Identity theft occurs when someone uses your name, Social Security number or other personal information without your permission to commit fraud or other crimes in your name. Many online threats can lead to having your personal information stolen and used for fraudulent activities. There are several steps you can take to minimize the potential damage from identity theft.
Scams and Fraud
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Fraud Alert on Credit Reports
You can contact any one of the three nationwide credit reporting companies and ask them to place a fraud alert on your credit report. Any of the companies you call, must then call the other companies for you and have fraud alerts placed on their credit reports as well. The fraud alert stays on your credit report for at least 90 days. You can create an "Identity Theft Report", that can allow you to extend the length of time the alert stays on your credit report (See the section below titled: Identity Theft Report).
Review Credit Reports
After you have a fraud alert placed on your credit report, you are able to obtain one free copy of your credit report from each of the credit reporting bureaus. You should review the reports to make sure that all of your personal information is correct (name, address, SSN, accounts, etc...). If the report has accounts listed that you did not open or debts that are not yours, contact the credit reporting companies to report the fraudulent account and have them corrected. You may want to contact the security or fraud department for each of the companies listed in the credit report where an account was opened without your permission. You should ask the company to send you written proof that they have corrected or closed the fraudulent account. They should provide this information to you on company letterhead, if at all possible.
Identity Theft Report
You can have an Identity Theft Report created that will help you to handle problems with credit reporting companies, debt collectors and any business that allowed the fraudster to open up new accounts in your name. This report can help to get fraudulent information removed from your credit report permanently, prevent debt collectors from collecting on debts resulting from identity theft and extend the fraud alert on your credit report.
You must perform three steps to obtain an Identity Theft Report:
- Contact the FTC and file an identity theft complaint (FTC website or call toll-free 1.877.438.4338)
- Get a copy of the FTC affidavit that contains the details of your identity theft complaint.
- Take the completed FTC affidavit to your local police, or to the police station where the identity theft occurred, and file a police report. Make sure to get a copy of the police report or at least the police report number.
The FTC affidavit and the police report make up the full Identity Theft Report. You can then send copies of the Identity Theft Report to any of the companies you need to report the fraud too. You should ask them to remove or correct the fraudulent information on your accounts and send you written proof of the actions taken on the fraudulent accounts.