You might find out that you’ve been a victim of identity theft through a call from a collection agency claiming you have a debt or if you were denied a credit due to a poor credit score.
It's estimated that as many as 12 million Americans fall victims of identity theft each year.
Here are the steps you need to take as soon as you discovered that you are part of the above statistics.
1. Notify one of the Credit Reporting Companies, Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion that you being a victim of identity theft. When you notify one, it will notify the other two for you.
2. Establish fraud alerts.
1. A fraud alert means that every time a creditor wants to check your credit report, it will need to call you. A fraud alert will be effective for 90 days.
3. Instruct the credit bureaus to block information about the fraudulent accounts from future reports.
4. Also ask them to remove inquiries that appeared due to fraudulent requests.
5. Credit bureaus also allow you to request a freezing of your credit report which means no one will be able to access it. The security freeze is free to victims of identity theft in most states.
6. Report the crime to your local police department and FTC (Federal Trade Commission)
7. If you credit report shows fraudulent accounts, contact the creditors and notify them of the identity theft.
8. If a bill collector contacted you regarding a fraudulent account, inform it that you are a victim of identity theft, and ask for their address. You will need to send them a fraud affidavit that will tell that you are not responsible for the account and that account needs to be closed.
9. Check if you are missing any ATM or Credit cards. If yes, report the lost cards to your creditors.
To avoid being a victim of identity theft, know how your personal information could be stolen and exercise caution when displaying, publishing, and otherwise giving out your private data.
How your information might get into wrong hands:
* Your mail could be stolen from a mailbox.
* If you don’t have a habit of shedding sensitive information before putting into trash, your bank statements might be available to a “dumpster diver”
* Lost or stolen wallets, credit and ATM cards.
* Trojan horses and other viruses might steal information from your computer.
* Your personal data might be stolen from a company you have business with.
* Other pieces of information such as your phone number, date of birth, and address might be picked up from social network websites such as Facebook, Bebo, MySpace, hi5 and others.