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7 Things You Must Do If Your Identity Is Stolen

Unless you've been hiding out in a cave the last few years

, then you are probably aware that identity theft has become a huge problem in the United States and worldwide. Each year millions of people suffer the fate of having their identity compromised or stolen to be used for illicit gain. Identity theft occurs when someone obtains your personal identifying information without your knowledge, and uses the information to commit fraud.

Just about everyone is vulnerable to this threat, and one can never know for sure when it will happen. However, if you are a victim of identity theft, it's important to act quickly to help minimize the damage that is caused. Here are seven (7) things you can do if your identity is stolen or compromised in some way.

1) Request a credit report. By law you are allowed to obtain one free credit report per year from each of the three credit reporting companies TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian and even more often if you are a victim of identity theft. Request your credit report through the website AnnualCreditReport (dot) com. This website is the official website for requesting free credit reports and is maintained jointly by all three credit reporting agencies.

2) Put a Fraud Alert on your credit report. Immediately contact the fraud departments of one of the three consumer reporting companies and place a fraud alert on your credit report. You only need to place an alert with one of them, who will then contact the other two - as required by law. The other two credit reporting companies will in turn put a fraud alert on your report as well. When there is an active fraud alert on your account, you will be notified when there is an attempt to open up a new account in your name, and if there are any new charges made to your account. A fraud alert can last from 90 for an initial alert to up to 7 years for an extended alert depending on what length of protection you desire for your accounts. To file an extended alert, you must be an identity theft victim and you will need to supply an identity theft report to the credit agencies.

3) Contact all of your creditors. This includes banks, credit card issuers, and all other creditors and let them know you are a victim of identity theft. When you act quickly, they may be able to flag any other suspicious activities on the account that you have not authorized and reduce your liability for any loss.

4) Close accounts. Close all accounts that have been compromised or opened in your name fraudulently.

5) File a police report about the identity theft. Be sure to obtain a copy of the report, which you can provide to creditors for proof of crime if needed.

6) File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC maintains a national database that tracks all identity theft incidents. This database is often used by law enforcement agencies to investigate identity theft crimes.

7) Monitor your credit reports. You can subscribe to a credit monitoring service for a monthly subscription fee, or you can easily monitor your credit accounts by yourself. As previously mentioned, you are entitled by law to get one free credit report each year from each of the credit reporting companies. If you are victim of identity theft, and have placed a 90 day fraud alert on your accounts, you can get 2 credit reports per year from each agency. If you have put a 7 year fraud alert on your credit accounts, you can get 3 credit reports from each credit reporting company.

A good idea for effective monitoring of your credit is to stagger your requests for credit reports throughout the year, e.g., request one every 3 or 4 months one from each agency. If you are an identity theft victim and entitled to additional free credit reports from each agency, you can stagger your request more often. Of course you can buy additional credit reports for a nominal fee at any time from any of the credit reporting companies.

In conclusion it's vitally important that you do these 7 things as soon as possible when you suffer theft of your personal identifying information. Quick action can help you mitigate the damages caused by the fraudulent activities, and get you back on the road to restoring your credit accounts and your good name.

by: Jesse Whitehead
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