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Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information without your permission to commit fraud or other crimes. Although you can't entirely control whether you will become a victim, you can take steps to protect yourself if it happens.
1. Contact the fraud department of any one of the three consumer reporting companies (listed below) to place a fraud alert on your credit report. The fraud alert tells creditors to contact you before opening any new accounts or making any changes to your existing accounts. You need to contact only one of these companies to place an alert. The company you call is required to contact the other two, which will place an alert on their versions of your report, too. Once you place the fraud alert in your file, you're entitled to order free copies of your credit reports, and, if you ask, only the last four digits of your Social Security number will appear on your credit reports.
2. Close the accounts that you know or believe have been tampered with or opened fraudulently. Use the ID Theft Affidavit available at http://www.consumer.gov/idtheft/pdf/affidavit.pdf when disputing new unauthorized accounts.
3. File a report with your local police or the police in the community where the identity theft took place. Get a copy of the report or at the very least, the number of the report, to submit to your creditors and others that may require proof of the crime.
4. File your complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Use the form available at https://rn.ftc.gov/pls/dod/widtpubl$.startup?Z_ORG_CODE=PU03. The FTC maintains a database of identity theft cases used by law enforcement agencies for investigations. Filing a complaint also helps the FTC learn more about identity theft and the problems victims are having so that the commission can better assist you.
Equifax: 1-800-525-6285 orhttp://www.equifax.com
Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742) orhttp://www.experian.com
TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289 orhttp://www.transunion.com
Source: Federal Trade Commission, http://www.consumer.gov/idtheft.
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