You need to report credit fraud without delay if you suspect someone has stolen your identity by posing as you to get credit cards, access your accounts, and/or take out loans.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) estimates than more than nine million Americans are victims of identity theft every year. Even scarier is the fact that many don’t even realize what’s happened until they’re denied a loan or receive a major credit card bill for things they didn’t buy.
HOW TO REPORT CREDIT FRAUD
File a police report. Don’t expect the police to go looking for the thieves – that’s not really what the report is about. According to the FTC, the purpose of a police report (in this case, an Identity Theft Report) is to prevent creditors from going after you for debts that are not yours.
With an Identity Theft Report in place, you’ll also be able to remove these illegal charges and debts from your credit report, so they don’t affect your overall credit score.
Contact the Major Credit Reporting Bureaus. Contact the three credit reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) to set up fraud alerts. Let them know you have a police-issued Identity Theft Report.
Ask for a copy of your credit report so you can go over it and dispute fraudulent charges, inquiries you didn’t authorize, and debts you can’t explain.Do the same again after six months, as some fraudulent activities might not come to light until sometime later.
You'll find the contact information Experian, Equifax and TransUnion by clicking here: Credit Reporting Agencies
Change passwords and close accounts. If the thieves have opened accounts in your name, close them immediately. If there are charges on those accounts, call the company to dispute them immediately after you report credit fraud to the police. You might need to send a copy of your police report to prove the charges aren’t yours.
You may be required to fill out fraud dispute forms and follow up in order to ensure the accounts have been closed and you’re not being held responsible for any fraudulent charges.
HOW to PREVENT IDENTITY THEFT
Destroy (rather than just throw away) vital financial paperwork. Bills, bank statements, credit card receipts or pre-approved offers, and even medical insurance statements should all be shredded before you dispose of them.
It’s very easy for a thief to get a hold of your credit card numbers, personal data, and even social security number just by rummaging in your trash.
Don’t give out personal information. You’d be surprised how many people are willing to share personal details over the phone or via email. Nobody should be asking you for your social security number except the IRS and you shouldn’t give out your credit card number unless you’re absolutely sure you’re dealing with a legitimate company. When in doubt, offer to call them back.
Be very suspicious of any company who calls you and then requests personal information, even if they claim to be your bank or a utility company. Instead, hang up and then call back using the official number on your bill or statement.
Keep track of your paperwork. Don’t just pay your credit card bill when it comes. Instead, go over the statement to make sure there aren’t any strange charges.
Check your bank statements monthly and be in the lookout for unauthorized transactions. You can set up email or text message alerts so your bank can notify you every time a transaction goes through.
Received a strange piece of mail? Act on it immediately. Some thieves initiate change of addresses or send out fake pre-approved credit card offers to get you to provide information.