What can I do about "identity theft"?

If you become the victim of identity theft, it is important to act immediately to stop the thief’s further use of your identity.

Immediately contact all your credit card issuers. Get replacement cards with new account numbers. Ask that the old accounts be processed as "account closed at consumer’s request." (This is better than "card lost or stolen," because when this statement is reported to credit bureaus, it can be interpreted as blaming you for the loss.)

1. Call the fraud units of the three credit reporting companies: TRW, Equifax, and Trans Union. Report the theft of your credit cards and/or numbers. Ask that your accounts be flagged. Also, add a victim's statement to your report such as, "My ID has been used to apply for credit fraudulently. Contact me at XXX-XXX-XXXX (your phone number) to verify all applications."

2. Notify your bank(s) of the theft. Cancel your checking and savings accounts and obtain new account numbers. Ask the bank to issue you a secret password that must be used in every transaction. Put stop payments on any outstanding checks that you are unsure of.

3. If you use the ATM card for banking services, get a new card, account number, and password. Do not use your old password. When creating a password, avoid such commonly used numbers as the last four digits of your Social Security number and your birth date.

4. If you have had checks stolen or bank accounts set up fraudulently, report it to Telecheck and National Processing Company (NPC). These check guarantee companies will flag your file so that bogus checks will be turned down. Call Telecheck at 800-366-2425. Call NPC at 800-526-5380.

5. Call your telephone, electrical, gas and water utilities. Alert them to the possibility that someone may attempt to open new service using your identification. Also contact your long distance company.

6. The nearest office of the Consumer Credit Counseling Service might be able to help you remove fraudulent claims from your credit report. Call 800-388-2227.

7. In dealing with the authorities and financial institutions, keep a log of all conversations, including dates and names. Send correspondence by certified mail. Keep copies of all letters and documents. Provide your police report number to expedite reporting the crime.

8. Consider seeking legal counsel, especially if you have difficulty clearing up your credit history, or your case is complex and involves a lot of money. An attorney can help you recover from the fraud and determine whether your rights under various credit banking, SSN, and other laws have been violated.

Credit Reporting Bureaus
Copy of Report: P.O. Box 740241
Atlanta, Georgia 30374-0241
Dispute Report: P.O. Box 740256
Atlanta, Georgia 30374-0256
Order Credit Report: 800-685-1111
Opt Out of Marketing Lists: 800-219-1251
Report Fraud: 800-525-6285

Trans Union
Copy of Report: P.O. Box 7000
North Olmstead, OH 44070
Dispute Report: P.O. Box 403
Springfield, PA 19064
Order Credit Report: 800-851-2674
Opt Out of Marketing Lists: 800-241-2858
Report Fraud: 800-680-7289

Copy of Report:
Dispute Report: Experian National Consumer Assistance Center
P.O. Box 2104
Allen, TX 75013-2104
Order Credit Report: 888-397-3742
Opt Out of Marketing Lists: 800-353-0809