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Chapter 15. Scams > Identity Theft

Identity Theft

Identity theft is now the number one consumer fraud complaint, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Identity theft occurs when personal information such as your Social Security number or a credit card account number is stolen by someone, who can then steal your identity and run up huge charges in your name. If you find that you are a victim of identity theft, you should promptly contact the fraud department of each of the three major credit reporting bureaus (Equifax at 1-800-685-1111 or www.equifax.com: Experian at 1-888-397-3742 or www.experian.com and Trans Union at 1-800-916-8800 or www.tuc.com) informing them of the theft. You should also ask that a fraud alert be placed on your file and that no new credit be granted without your specific approval. Identity theft can ruin your credit, so it is important to notify all three credit reporting bureaus because they operate independently of each other.

As soon as you find that either an existing account has been accessed or a new account has been opened in your name, you should contact the security department of the company and promptly close the account. Put passwords on any new accounts you open to replace the former accounts, and make sure you do not use your Social Security number as the password, because the identity thief may already know your number. It is also important to file a report of the crime with your local police because any bank or company with which you may deal may require proof of your complaint. The necessary notification of everyone with whom you may do business can be a frustrating, time-consuming task; however, the FTC has recently created a model identity theft affidavit form that you can use to simplify the process of reporting information to many companies. This form was developed by the FTC together with banks, credit companies and consumer advocates. You can get a copy of the form either by going to the FTC’s website at www.consumer.gov/idtheft/affidavit.htm or by calling toll free to 1-877-ID-THEFT.


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