Identity theft: What to do it if happens to you

4/11/2007 – You’ve just been turned down for a home equity loan. You got a call from an obnoxious bill collector about an account you don’t recognize. You’ve noticed you’re no longer receiving the usual five credit card offers per day. Here’s what to do:

Time, patience and a feeling of security; you’ll lose all of them when your identity is stolen. In most cases, however, you won’t lose much money if you respond quickly and tenaciously.
Call each credit agency. Report that you’ve been a victim of identity theft. Request a free copy of your credit report, to which you’re entitled in fraud situations. Ask that a fraud alert and victim’s statement be placed in your file, helping prevent additional loss — but also hindering your legitimate efforts to obtain credit.

Create a log. Use a spiral-bound notebook so little pieces of paper don’t disappear. For every call or other task, record the details, the time spent, to whom you spoke and their contact information.
File a police report. You’ll need a police report or case number and contact information for credit agencies and creditors. Don’t expect justice, however.
Inspect your credit reports. Note everything that looks wrong (including former job listings and addresses — the thief probably listed some), and send a letter listing errors to each agency. They are required to correct and send you a new, free report.
Contact each account’s fraud department. Close the questionable account (ask that closure be noted as “at customer’s request”).

Contact information
• Equifax: (800) 525-6285 or www.equifax.com

• Experian: (888) 397-3742 or www.experian.com

• TransUnion: (800) 680-7289 or www.transunion.com

•Federal Trade Commission: www.consumer.gov/idtheft

• Identity Theft Hotline (877) 438-4338

•Social Security Administration: www.socialsecurity.gov/oig/guidelin.htm

• SSA Fraud Hotline: (800) 269-0271

• U.S. State Department: (202) 955-0430 or www.travel.state.gov/passport/index.html
Frustration alert: To speak to customer service, you’re required to enter the relevant account number, which you probably don’t have because somebody else opened the account.

Befriend a notary public. You’ll have to file an affidavit (a sworn written statement) with every credit account involved. Some will accept the form on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Web site; others will want something different. Regardless, it’ll probably have to be notarized.
Copy everything you mail — seriously — everything!

This information was excerpted from Your Little Legal Companion: Helpful Advice for Life’s Big Events, a 35th anniversary commemorative gift book by the editors of Nolo, a provider of do-it-yourself legal books and software for consumers and small business.

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