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The Best-Laid Plans...

No matter how diligent you are in protecting your identity, you may still fall victim to identity theft. You may notice strange charges on your credit cards, or start getting calls about credit you've never applied for. What should you do if you suspect your identity has been stolen?

  1. Cancel all your credit cards immediately. If your cards have been stolen, use the photocopies you prepared. Your credit card companies should issue you new cards, and also be able to assist you with paperwork for disputing charges.

  2. Notify your bank. Since many debit cards or check cards are linked directly to your bank accounts, let your bank know immediately if you suspect identity theft, so they can take steps to ensure that your accounts stay yours.

  3. As embarrassing as it may feel, file a police report as soon as possible. Not only is this step important for dealing with the credit card companies and credit agencies, it will also aid in prosecution later, should the thief be caught.

  4. Notify the three major credit agencies and the Social Security Administration at the numbers below:

    • Equifax: 1-800-525-6285

    • Experian (formerly TRW): 1-888-397-3742

    • Trans Union: 1-800-680-7289

    • Social Security Administration (fraud line): 1-800-269-0271

The credit agencies will be able to assist you with making sure that your credit report remains intact via either a "90-Day Security Alert" or a "Seven-Year Victim Statement." To obtain new credit using your identity, a thief still will need to be able to have creditors check your credit report. With these alerts placed on your account, the thief won't be able to do so.

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