Checklist for Identity Theft Victims
Since there are millions of identity theft victims every year in the U.S., many people prepare an identity theft checklist, just in case they fall victim. After all, identity theft can happen to anyone. Even the most conscientious, careful person's personal information can get into the wrong hands if someone steals his or her laptop or hacks into a computer database. An identity theft checklist helps keep victims focused and able to work through the problem in a logical progression of steps that prioritize the most important and beneficial measures.
• Stay cool. Although identity theft is extremely upsetting, you're going to have to address this problem step-by-step, and no one else can do this for you. Keep a clear head, follow this identity theft checklist, and proactively begin taking control of your situation.
•Contact Experian, TransUnion, or Equifax by calling them or visiting their website, and place a fraud alert on your credit report. The law requires the agency you contact to contact the other two.
•Obtain a free credit report from each of the agencies, and review each credit report thoroughly (they'll send them after they've received your fraud alert). Look for unauthorized charges, new credit accounts the thief has opened, and any other suspicious activity.
•Write an identity theft victim statement explaining what you think happened, send it to each agency, and ask them to add the report to your file.
•Contact credit card companies, merchants, and other creditors that have issued you accounts that are in danger of being compromised. Also, cancel any accounts that the thief may have opened in your name.
•Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and file an identity fraud complaint via telephone at 1-877-438-4338 or online at www.ftc.gov/idtheft.
•Contact your local police department or the police where you think the theft occurred, and file a report. Bring credit card statements and other documents that indicate fraud. Make sure to request a copy of the police report for your records.
•Change all your account passwords, and make sure your new ones are a mix of random letters, numbers, and symbols.
•If you think a thief has stolen or tampered with your mail, contact your postmaster to report possible mail fraud being committed in your name.
•Contact your cell phone provider, gas and electric company, and other utilities. This will prevent the thief from using monthly statements if he or she has changed your address to use a new one as proof of a mailing address when trying to open new lines of credit.
Again, remain as calm as possible. While it's easier said than done, you're going to have to write letters, make phone calls, and stay organized to defeat the thief and overcome the havoc that identity theft can cause. Although having an identity theft checklist ready in case of emergency is a very good idea, another good idea is to proactively take preventive steps now to reduce your chances of becoming a victim.