credit cards

12 steps for victims of identity fraud

As soon as you suspect that you've been victimized, taking these steps immediately will help you clear your name and your credit.

12-step program for ID theft victims
1.Notify affected creditors or bank7.Send creditors your ID Theft Report
2.Implement a fraud alert8.Contact credit reporting agencies
3.Check your credit reports9.Change all account passwords
4.Consider getting a credit freeze10.Call Social Security fraud hotline
5.Contact the FTC11.Get a new driver license
6.Go to the police12.Contact utility companies

1. Notify affected creditors or bank

If a bank account or existing credit line has been affected, shutting it down should be the first order of business. Working with the credit card company or the bank as soon as possible can save you money. In general, most credit cards have zero-liability policies, but the Fair Credit Billing Act specifies that your maximum liability for unauthorized charges is $50.

ATM or debit cards and electronic transfers from your bank account fall under the Electronic Fund Transfer Act. Under this act, consumers have to move fast. Reporting a lost or stolen ATM or debit card before any fraudulent transactions means the victim is off the hook for any that happen afterward.

But if purchases or withdrawals are made, consumers have a small window of two business days to report the unauthorized charges or transfers and get a $50 liability limit. After that, there is a $500 liability limit for up to 60 days after the statement reflecting the fraud is mailed. After 60 days, consumers are exposed to unlimited liability.

Consumers should also notify banks of any lost or stolen checks.

2. Put a fraud alert on your credit report

"Contact any one of the three credit reporting agencies and request a fraud alert. By doing so, a fraud alert will be put on all three of your credit files," says Steven Katz, director of consumer education for TransUnion's

The fraud alert will last 90 days. After you've filed a police report or filled out the ID theft complaint form from the FTC, you can put an extended fraud alert on your credit file which will last seven years.

"Filing a fraud alert is probably the best step for someone who is unsure if they are a victim," says Katz.

A credit freeze will provide more protection but can be restrictive when applying for credit.


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