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A Case of Stolen Identity

Identity theft is a personal violation with potentially severe consequences for the victim. Immediate action can make a difficult situation more bearable:

Contact the "big 3" credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and the TransUnion. Get a copy of your credit report from each agency; review them thoroughly for accuracy and suspicious activity. Ask the agencies to a fraud alert and to attach it to your report.

Call the police. Fill out a crime report at your local police department. Document who you talk to, phone numbers, dates, and time. Obtain copies of the police report; creditors will likely want to review it.

Close out accounts that have been fraudulently accessed... or might soon be. Contact all creditors, banks, credit card companies, and other service providers with whom there has been fraudulent activity. Request that creditors report closed accounts as "closed at consumer's request."

Stop payment on checks. If you've had checks stolen, contact one of the major check verification companies (e.g., TeleCheck, ChexSystems, or EWS- the lesser-known siblings of the big 3) to report fraudulent activity and to stop payment on stolen checks.

Change PINS and passwords on reissued cards, such as ATM or debit cards.

Dealing with debt collectors. If debt collectors come knocking, inform them that you are a victim of identity theft and aren't responsible for unpaid bills to it. Be prepared to send them a pertinent document, such as the police report, to demonstrate your situation. Normally, this will put a halt to collection efforts. If not, consult a consumer law attorney... immediately if you receive notice of legal action.

Also notify the Social Security Administration, U.S. State Department (passports), Department of Motor Vehicles (driver's license), and U.S. Postal Service.

A consumer law attorney can help you with the potential legal/financial issues caused by identity theft.

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