By Jennifer M. Zeberkiewicz
Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal identifying information—your name, Social Security number, or credit card number—without your permission, to commit fraud or other crimes.
Contact the major credit bureaus:
Experian: Call 888-397-3742 to set up a fraud alert or request a copy of your credit report
Equifax: Call 888-766-0008 to set up a fraud alert. Call 800-685-1111 for a credit report.
TransUnion: Call 800-680-7289 to set up a fraud alert. Call 800-888-4213 for a credit report.
Identity thieves may use another person's identity to rent an apartment, obtain a credit card, or establish a cell phone account.
If you suspect that you may be a victim of identity theft, set up a fraud alert with the three major credit bureaus. With a fraud alert in place, businesses still may check your credit report. Depending on whether you place an initial 90-day alert or an extended alert, potential creditors must either contact you or use what the law refers to as "reasonable policies and procedures" to verify your identity before issuing credit.
If you're a victim of identity theft:
- File an identity theft report with the police.
- File a complaint with the FTC. Keep all related paperwork.
- Immediately close accounts involved. Call each credit card issuer and notify again by certified letter. Contact your financial institutions as well. Make sure the companies notify you in writing that the disputed charges have been erased. Document each conversation and keep all records.
- Place a seven-year fraud alert or a "freeze" on your credit reports. Begin the process of having the fraudulent information removed from your credit reports. Many states have laws that let consumers "freeze" their credit—letting a consumer restrict access to his or her credit report. That way, if other thieves try to open new accounts, they will be stopped in their tracks.
If you follow these steps and creditors and debt collectors still are contacting you about fraudulent accounts, give them a copy of a valid identity theft report. Once you've done this, they may not report fraudulent accounts to the credit reporting companies.