If you have become a victim of Identity Theft, it probably wouldn't surprise
you to learn that this crime is becoming more prevalent. However, the fact
that Identity Theft often involves mail fraud, which is a federal offense,
means that strong federal sentencing guidelines are being applied to perpetrators
of Identity Theft.
What identity thieves count on is that you won't find out about the theft
until they have opened a number of fraudulent accounts, or a loan, using
your name and Social Security number. Identity thieves will sometimes continue
to make the minimum payments on fraudulent accounts to keep them open long
enough to obtain as many goods and cash advances as they can before letting
them slip into delinquency. You might not even hear about any of these accounts
until you get a call from a collection agency.
If an identity thief is using your Social Security number, experts suggest
to taking action as soon as you suspect foul play. Do you know what to do
Notify the credit report agencies
When you believe that Identity Theft has occurred, either as a result of
checking your credit report or being contacted by an account issuer, there
are things you can do immediately. The first thing you can do is to contact
the fraud departments of any of the three national credit reporting agencies
(CRAs): Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Tell them you are a victim of
Identity Theft, and ask them to:
Placing a fraud alert on your credit report will prompt creditors to contact
you for authorization before opening any new accounts. This course of action
will also require creditors to obtain your permission when processing pre-approved
credit card applications, which may have been intercepted and sent in by
an identity thief. You can also opt-out of pre-approved credit card offers
by calling the credit reporting agencies at 1-888-5-OPT-OUT (1-888 567-8688),
and requesting an opt-out form.
- Place a fraud alert on your credit file, which should prevent any further credit from being granted without your approval. Making one call to place a fraud alert with any of the three national credit reporting agencies will automatically place a fraud alert on all three of your credit files.
- Ask for a copy of your credit report from each of the three CRAs, and check for additional fraudulent accounts, unauthorized charges, or inquiries you don't recognize.
Because different creditors sometimes may report to only one or two of the
national credit reporting agencies, ordering your credit report from all
three can help you to know exactly how many accounts may have been fraudulently
opened in your name, and which companies have placed inquiries on your report
and why. If you are a victim of Identity Theft, you are entitled to a free
credit report from each of the national CRAs.
Experts recommend that you make your creditors aware of any Identity Theft
situation immediately to prevent further fraudulent use of your accounts.
You may also want to keep a record of all dates, times, and contacts as
you go through the process.