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12 steps for victims of identity fraud

3. Check your credit reports

After installing a fraud alert in your credit file, you'll automatically receive a free credit report from each of the three agencies and you will be opted out of preapproved credit card and insurance offers. After you receive your reports, make note of the unique number assigned to your account. This will be valuable in all your communications with the agencies.

Check your reports for signs of fraud -- new accounts you didn't open, hard inquiries you don't recognize, payment history you can't account for, an employer you never worked for and personal information unfamiliar to you. Pull each of your credit reports at least once over the course of the next year to check for fraudulent activity. Use an identity theft report to get fraudulent information removed from your reports.

4. Consider putting a credit freeze on your reports

"A credit freeze is a good thing to do if you know you're a victim, as it will completely lock down all your credit information," says TransUnion's Katz.

A credit freeze prevents the credit-reporting agencies from releasing your credit report to new creditors. The cost is $10 in most states to place a freeze at each bureau, and is usually free if you can prove you're an ID theft victim.

5. Contact the FTC

Contact the FTC at (877) 438-4338. While federal investigators only tend to pursue larger, more sophisticated fraud cases, they monitor identity theft crimes of all levels in the hopes of discovering patterns and breaking up larger rings.

More importantly, fill out the ID theft complaint and affidavit form at the FTC's website and print out for your records. Together with a police report, it serves as your ID theft report, which will help you dispute fraudulent accounts.

According to the FTC website, an ID theft report is more comprehensive than a police report alone. Your local police department may incorporate the ID theft complaint form into its report or they might have another way of providing the full details needed for an ID theft report.

If you don't file a police report, you can use the complaint as an ID theft affidavit to request companies to remove you from being responsible for unauthorized new accounts. However, the affidavit doesn’t provide as many legal protections as a ID theft report.

6. Go to the police

Alert the police in your city. You may also need to report the crime to the police departments where the crime occurred.

Securing a police report is of utmost importance. But not all states have legislated that local law enforcement must take a police report on identity theft from consumers. A report released in November 2007 by the Identity Theft Resource Center, "The Aftermath," found that 24 percent of the victims of identity theft who answered the survey could not get the police to take a report.

The FTC provides a cover letter to give to local law enforcement which stresses the importance of police reports for consumer victims.

Make sure the police report lists all fraud accounts. Give as much documented information as possible and give them a copy of the ID theft complaint form from the FTC.


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