10 million Americans were victims of identity theft in 2008. The most commonly reported identity theft? Credit card fraud: someone else using your credit card number to make purchases. It takes the typical victim 330 hours – that’s more than 8 full-time workweeks – to resolve identity theft issues.
Here’s what to do if you’re a victim of identity theft.
1. Contact one of the three major credit bureaus to report the fraud.
Contact one agency to report identity theft, and it will notify the other two.
- Equifax: 800-685-1111 or www.equifax.com
- Experian: 888-397-3742 or www.experian.com
- TransUnion: 800-680-7289 or www.transunion.com
All three will then put a “security alert” on your credit file, remove your name from mailing lists for pre-approved offers of credit cards and insurance, and mail you a copy of your credit report. The bureaus also promise to speed up the removal of fraudulent items from credit reports after the identity theft victim files a police report.
2. File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
Call 877-ID-THEFT (877-438-4338) or visit www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/
3. File a report with your local police.
Take your FTC documents with you.
4. Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for additional help.
This non-profit group at www.idtheftcenter.org has volunteers nationwide to help victims clear up their financial problems.
Even if you don’t know of any identity theft, you can also stop in at Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Northeastern Iowa for a copy of your credit report to make sure your information is accurate. Bring picture identification as well as something with your social security number. For just $20, we provide a copy of your report and a counseling session in which we can check for abnormal balances. At the same time, we explain your credit score and tell you any changes you may need to make to improve it.
Remember: You should never have to pay for a credit report. Visit www.annualcreditreport.com for your free credit report.