People steal others’ personal information and identification for the purpose of obtaining credit cards, loans, phone services, and to rent apartments. In many cases they request address changes so you will never see the bills they incur. Often victims do not realize their identities have been stolen until they apply for a loan or get a call from a collection agency. Re-establishing credit worthiness after your identity has been stolen can be a long, arduous process, which is why it’s so important to take steps to prevent it before it happens.
Helpful tips to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft
- Keep bank and other financial statements, checks, and debit and credit cards in a secure place. Shred statements, checks, credit card offers, charge receipts, and credit applications before discarding them.
- Never provide account numbers, social security numbers, or credit card numbers over the phone or by email unless you know the person or company you're dealing with.
- Deposit outgoing mail into an official U.S. Postal Service collection box. Promptly collect incoming mail from your mailbox.
- Regularly review your checking and savings accounts, debit and credit card statements, and credit report to ensure all activity is legitimate.
- Order your free credit report annually so you can review it for completeness and accuracy. If it contains a mistake you can file a dispute with the credit bureau and receive a response within 45 days.
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Credit Report Request Service
P.O. Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281
If you think you have become a victim of identity theft, take these steps:
- File a police report and call the Federal Trade Commission's toll-free Identity Theft Hotline at 1-877-438-4338.
- Notify the fraud departments of the three major credit bureaus and request that they post a "fraud alert" in your file and a victim's statement asking that creditors call you before opening any new accounts. The fraud hotline numbers for the three major credit bureaus are: Equifax – 1-888-766-0008; Experian – 1-888-397-3742, and TransUnion – 1-800-680-7289.
- Request a copy of your free credit report.
- Contact your creditors to find out if any accounts have been opened fraudulently. Close existing accounts and obtain new credit, debit, and ATM cards.
- Report any suspected stolen mail to your post office and check for unauthorized change of address requests.