The most important thing to do when you discover identity fraud is to take action right away. Remember to keep records of all your telephone calls and other correspondence with companies regarding the identity fraud.
- File a report with your local police or the police in the community where the identity theft took place. Keep a copy of the police report and make note of the date of your report, in case your bank, credit card company or other company needs proof of the crime.
- If you suspect that your mail is being diverted to another address, check with your local post office to see whether an unauthorized change of address form has been filed under your name.
- Call your credit card issuers right away to check on the status of your accounts if your bills do not arrive on time. If necessary, close all your accounts. You should keep a record in a safe place, separate from your credit cards, of your account numbers, expiration dates, and the telephone numbers of each card issuer so you can report a loss quickly.
- Notify your bank at once if your ATM card has been stolen or if unauthorized transfers and withdrawals have been made on one or more of your accounts. Alert your bank if your checks are stolen or missing. When you open new bank accounts, ask that a password be used before any inquiries or changes can be made to the accounts and avoid using a PIN that may be discovered by a thief, such as your birth date or the last four digits of your Social Security number.
- Canceling your credit cards may stop impostors from using your existing accounts, but it does not stop them from opening new accounts under your name. To prevent this from occurring, if your cards may have been misused by an unauthorized party, contact the fraud departments of each of the three major credit bureaus and ask them to "flag" your file as one belonging to a possible fraud victim. This warning will include a statement that creditors should call to get your permission before approving new credit cards or loans in your name. After calling each of the three credit bureaus (listed in the Resources section of this report), you should follow up with them in writing. Keep copies of such written notices.
- Ask the credit bureaus for copies of your credit reports. You are entitled to a free copy of your credit report if you were recently denied credit or if your report is inaccurate because of fraud. Review your report carefully to make sure no unauthorized charges were made on your existing accounts and that no fraudulent accounts or loans were established in your name. In a few months, order new copies of your credit reports to verify that the inaccurate information has been removed and no new fraudulent activity has occurred.
- Contact each of the creditors for any accounts that were tampered with or falsely established in your name. Ask to speak with someone in the security or fraud department. According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you must follow up the calls with a letter to the creditor. When writing to a credit card company, be sure to send the letter to the address provided to report billing errors. Do not send it to the address where you send payments, unless you are directed to do so.