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Beating Identity Theft

Aug 17, 2007
You may not recognize it when the theft first occurs, but you suddenly start getting warnings that something is wrong with your credit. Maybe you were one of the smart ones who gets credit reports annually. Maybe you found out because creditors have started contacting you. Your identity has been stolen.

There are a number of steps you need to take once you realize your identity has been stolen. All of them are tedious, but it's vital you get things back into order. And unfortunately it can take years to get your accounts back in order. The entire process is tedious and draining.

The first thing you need to do is get your credit report from all three agencies. You are entitled to this free in the instance of fraud. You can also request a fraud alert be placed on your account. This will make it harder for you to get credit, but will inhibit further fraud.

There are two types of fraud alerts. The initial fraud alert is valid for only 90 days, and is good if you suspect there is a problem, but aren't certain. It's good when your wallet is stolen or if you fall for a phishing scam.

An extended alert stays on your account for seven years. You have to provide the company with an identity theft report to get an extended alert placed on it. The extended alert also removes your name from the marketing lists for preapproved credit cards for five years.

You will need to keep track of all your efforts to clean up the problem. Buy a notebook and take plenty of notes. Who you talk to, the time and what was discussed. You want to have notes to refer back to so that you can prove that you have taken the steps you say you have.

Go to the FTC website to file your complaint. This can help you to gather the information the police report will require. They have a form for you at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/credit/affidavit.pdf

File a police report. While identity thieves are rarely caught, this helps you when you are disputing the various illicit accounts. Credit agencies and creditors will probably want the information about the case.

For all illicit accounts, talk to the fraud department. Explain the problem and have them close the account per your request. It can be difficult, as many places will insist that you enter an account number, which you won't have.

Try calling another department and explain why you need a direct connection. Then get the phone number for that before they transfer you. Don't wait to ask the person you are transferred to; many employees are just terrible at transferring calls and accidentally disconnect them instead. If they have the number and give it to you, you can save yourself some frustration. If they can't give you a number, make sure you get it after the transfer.

Most companies will want everything in writing. Be prepared to make copies of the various documents and to have them notarized. For your own protection you should also send them by certified mail and get a return receipt so that you can prove you sent it and that it was received.

All of this is incredibly tedious and time consuming. Don't think you're going to get this resolved quickly or without frustration. Identity theft is a difficult issue to clear up. Try to be patient and let the fraud representatives help you. After a while you should get used to the routine required. It's not going to be pleasant but it is very necessary.

And don't forget that you can get your free credit report from each bureau annually.
About the Author
Stephanie Foster blogs at http://credit-blog.findcreditonline.com/ about credit related issues. You can learn more about coping with identity theft by reading her blog.
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