What To Do If Your Identity Is Stolen

(Page 2 of 2 of Stolen Identity? Here's What to Do)

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6. Close any accounts that have been accessed fraudulently -- or that you're worried might be. Contact all creditors, including banks, credit card companies, and other service providers, with whom there has been fraudulent activity. Request that creditors report closed accounts as "account closed at consumer's request," because a mark of "card lost or stolen" can reflect poorly on your credit report.

Request copies of the identity thief's application and transaction records from businesses that provided credit, goods, or services to the thief. Normally, the business must provide you copies when you send a properly completed written request and cannot impose a charge. Copies also must be provided to law enforcement agencies that you specify. In general, you must provide satisfactory proof of your identity, a police report, and a completed FTC identity theft affidavit. The request must be sent to the business at the address it specifies for this purpose.

Ask businesses that have provided identity theft-related information to credit bureaus to stop providing the information. You must send the business an identity theft report at the address that it specifies for this purpose and identify the information related to identity theft. The business normally cannot provide the information to any credit bureau after receiving such a request.

Warning Change your PINs. If your ATM or debit card was stolen, do not use your old PIN for your new card. Choose a password that is obscure but that you will remember; do not use common numbers such as your birth date.

7. Stop payment on checks. If a thief stole checks or opened bank accounts in your name, contact one of the major check verification companies to report the fraudulent activity and to stop payment on stolen checks. (Try Telecheck at 800-710-9898 or ChexSystems at 800-428-9623.)

8. Deal with debt collectors. While you are handling your identity theft case, debt collectors may ask you to pay outstanding bills from fraudulently activated credit accounts. Inform the debt collector by phone and in writing that you are a victim of identity theft and that you are not responsible for the unpaid bill. In your letter, be sure to include copies of documents, such as a police report, that demonstrate that you are the victim of identity theft.

When you inform the collector that the debt is the result of identity theft, the collector must pass this information along to the creditor (the company attempting to collect the debt). The collector also must send you information that "validates" the debt (usually, just the amount of the debt and the creditor's name). Send the collector a written dispute of the debt after you receive the validation, and include a copy of your police report or identity theft affidavit. Also send a copy to the creditor. (To learn more about debt validation and dealing with debt collectors, see Nolo's Debt and Collection Agencies area.)

Ask the collector to provide you with all pertinent information (for example, name, phone number, address, account number) relating to both the collector and creditor. Finally, ask the collector to confirm in writing that you are not responsible for the outstanding debt and that the collection account has been closed.

Ordinarily, you will have a complete defense to a debt incurred by the identity thief and should not pay it. Generally, the information you provide the collector and creditor will cause the collector to stop collection efforts. If not, it may be helpful to consult an attorney. Consult an attorney immediately if you receive notice of legal action based on debts incurred by the identity thief.

9. Contact the local postal inspector. If you believe that someone has changed your address through the post office or has committed mail fraud, contact your local post office. If you discover that mail in your name is being sent to an address other than your own, ask the local postmaster to forward all mail in your name to your own address.

10. Contact the Social Security Administration (SSA). If you believe that your Social Security number has been used to fraudulently obtain welfare or Social Security benefits, visit the SSA Office of the Inspector General website at www.socialsecurity.gov/oig or call the SSA Fraud Hotline at 800-269-0271. In an extreme case, you may be able to change your Social Security number, but it is difficult to do and may not resolve the problem.

11. Contact the U.S. State Department. If your passport was stolen or if you believe someone may be fraudulently ordering a passport in your name, visit the U.S. State Department website at www.travel.state.gov or call 877-487-2778.

12. Contact your state's department of motor vehicles. Contact this department if your driver's license was stolen or if you think someone is using your driver's license number to facilitate fraud. Most states will put a fraud alert on your license if you ask for one. You should also request a new license number and fill out the department's complaint form.

Where to Go for More Information

These resources can help if you want to learn more about preventing or responding to identity theft:

For comprehensive identity theft information, visit the FTC's identity theft website at www.ftc.gov/idtheft.

For state and federal identity theft laws and other victim resources, visit the Identity Theft Resource Center at www.idtheftcenter.org.

For links to additional identity theft websites, visit the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse at www.privacyrights.org/.

For all the information you need to stop identity theft and rebuild your good name, get Stopping Identity Theft:10 East Steps to Security, by Scott Mitic (Nolo).

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