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Life After Identity Theft

Apr 5, 2008
It is always a shock to the system. When you first discover that you have been a victim of identity theft, you feel violated. It is as if someone has been living in your house, and you didn't even know it. Then you get angry. Someone has stolen my hard-earned money! But it is difficult to "get even." Chances are you'll never find out who the ID thief was. The best you can do is clean up the mess, and take steps to protect yourself in the future. This is your life after identity theft.

The first signs that you've been a victim of identity theft might be unexpected credit card charges, denials of credit for no apparent reason, or monthly bills that don't arrive as expected. It's time to take action immediately to stop the thief.

Place a "fraud alert" on your credit reports. This tells your creditors you suspect something is wrong, and they will follow set procedures before opening any new accounts in your name. You'll also get a free copy of your credit reports so you can review them carefully for any other signs of criminal activity.

Close accounts that have been violated or established without your knowledge. Contact the security or fraud department of each company where an account was opened, and be sure to follow up in writing providing evidence of the theft.

File a police report. This will help you with any creditors who may want proof of the crime. You can also report the theft to the Federal Trade Commission - this probably won't help you directly, but will help them monitor the overall scope of ID theft in the country.

To make sure that you're not a victim again, start safeguarding your personal financial information immediately. This should include shredding documents with your personal information on them before throwing them in the garbage or recycle can. Don't give out personal information over the phone or the Internet unless you know whom you are dealing with.

Tighten up the security of your online passwords and PINs. Don't use obvious passwords like your mother's maiden name, your birth date, or part of your social security number.

Keep your personal information in a secure place in your home. Lock away your passport, credit cards you don't normally use, and financial records. This is especially true if you have roommates, hire outside help, or are having work done in your home.

Finally, continue to monitor your credit report, looking for any signs of illegal activity. You can get a free copy of your credit report once a year from the three major credit bureaus at annualcreditreport.com. If you space out your requests (ask for a report from one of the bureaus every four months, for example), you can monitor your credit more thoroughly.

Is there life after identity theft? Obviously, yes! It's just not the same, though. You'll always be more suspicious when the phone rings or when you check your e-mails. And maybe that's a good thing.
About the Author
To learn the inside secrets to fixing your credit fast, including "How To Make Yourself Virtually Identity Theft Proof In 60 Minutes Or Less For Free", visit the author's website: Improve Your Credit Score With The Credit Secrets Bible
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