If You Suspect Identity Theft

What do you do if you’re a victim of identity theft?

The FTC provides excellent, detailed instructions on how to respond here.

Similar information is available in PDF format here (right-click to save). This publication, also from the FTC, is from August 2005, but most of the basic information is still the same.

A quick version of the instructions is as follows (from the FTC site):

  1. Place a fraud alert on your credit reports, and review your credit reports.
  2. Close the accounts that you know, or believe, have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.
  3. File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
  4. File a report with your local police or the police in the community where the identity theft took place.

Other important tips: make copies of every single piece of paper you handle during the process, and be sure to keep them where you can find them.

Keep your originals! If you have to send receipts, statements or other documents to anyone, only send photocopies.

You will probably have to write letters to financial and other institutions—send these via certified mail, return receipt requested (and keep copies for yourself). That way you always have proof of when they received your documents.

Identity theft is no picnic, and it can take many weeks to fully undo the damage. However, by approaching the situation with the right tools, you can drastically reduce the amount of stress it brings into your life.

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