How Do I Reclaim My Identity?

No matter how careful you are about protecting your personal information, no one is completely safe from identity theft. Here are some steps you can take if you think you've become a victim of identity theft.

1. Call the credit bureaus. Contact the fraud departments of each of these three major credit bureaus. You should call them first, follow up by writing.

Call: 1.800.525.6285

Equifax Fraud Assistance
P.O.Box 105069
Atlanta, GA 30348

Call: 1.888.397.3742

P.O.Box 949
Allen, TX 75013-0949

Call: 1.800.680.7289

Fraud Victim Assistance Department
P.O.Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92834

2. Request that a fraud alert be placed in your credit bureau file. This will alert potential creditor that you have been a victim of identity theft and that your credit report is not yet completely corrected.

3. Include a victim's statement. Tell the credit bureaus you'd like to include a statement on your credit report asking that creditors call you before opening any new accounts or charging your existing accounts.

4. Ask for copies of your credit report and review them carefully. If you are a victim of identity theft, credit bureaus must give you a free copy of your report to check for inaccuracies. Make sure that no additional fraudulent accounts have been opened or unauthorized charges made. Check the inquiry section of the report. When inquiries appear from companies that opened fraudulent accounts, request that the inquiries be removed from your report.

5. Perform periodic reviews. In a few months order a new copy of your credit report to verify your corrections and changes.

6. Contact your local police. Insist that they file a report and give you a copy. You may need this as a proof of the crime to your bank and credit card companies.

7. Contact all creditors who have opened fraudulent accounts in your name. Inform them that the account was opened fraudulently, ask them to close it and ask that they send you copies of the account application and any other account transactions.

8. Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Identity Theft Hotline at 1.877.ID THEFT (1.877.438.4338). The FTC will put your information into a secure consumer fraud database.

9. Check your mail, bills, and statements carefully. If any regular mails, bills, or statements do not arrive on schedule or if you receive statements or bills for accounts that you do not have, contact the creditor immediately.

10. Review ALL your accounts. You should check each transaction of each of your accounts and make sure that they are authorized by you.

11. If your bank account has been tampered with, close the account immediately. If your checks were stolen or misused, either place a stop payment for the range of checks stolen or close the account. Also, contact the major check verification companies to request that they notify retailers that use their database.