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Credit Report Identity Theft - Identity Theft and Credit Reports - Credit Reports Before Identity Theft, Steps to Take After Discovering Identity Theft

How to Know if You're Identity is Stolen and What to Do About It

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Although it is difficult to know for certain, somewhere between one in ten and one in twenty Americans will have their identity stolen in the near future. Therefore it is more important than ever to protect your identity and credit rating. One of the most difficult things about identity theft is that you might not know it has happened until several months has passed and several thousand dollars have been charged to your account. However, you can take steps to avoid identity theft. Credit reports give the information you need to keep tabs on your identity. Also, for those unfortunate people who have had their identity stolen, there are a few key steps that will help re-establish your identity and credit rating.

Credit Reports Before Identity Theft

Many people do not know their identity has been stolen until they get a call from a creditor or receive a bill full of charges that they did not make. However, perhaps the best way to be aware of identity theft is by examining your credit report on a regular basis. If you make regular payments on your credit card and spend a moderate amount of money on credit cards, then you should not expect to see a significant change in your credit rating. However, when you do see a significant drop in your credit rating, then it is likely that your identity has been stolen.

By law, the three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) are obligated to provide you with a free credit report once every 12 months. This report is available from AnnualCreditReport.com. This is the only website that the Federal Trade Commission endorses to provide these reports. While many other websites offer credit reports and provide detailed information about your credit history, it is important to exercise caution when dealing with such sites.

At the minimum, it is a good idea to check your credit report at least once per year, if not more often, to avoid identity theft.

Steps to Take After Discovering Identity Theft

If you do discover that your identity has been stolen and charges have been made in your name, the first thing to do is to notify the three credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion). This will flag your name to avoid future accounts from being opened and, if necessary, a freeze on your accounts can be arranged. Also, report the theft to your local police department, and be sure that all of the compromised accounts are on the police report (and get a copy of it for your records). Next, inform the Federal Trade Commission of the theft. You will also need to contact the credit card companies and will likely have to file forms listing the fraudulent purchases. You may also need to speak with debt collectors and the Social Security Administration.

There is no avoiding the impact of identify theft and the many hours it might take to correct it. The best way to avoid these circumstances to by regularly checking your credit report, being cautious with your Social Security number and credit cards numbers, and always checking your credit card bills for any suspicious charges.

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