23 May 2006

Do What You Need to Do to Protect Your Identity.

On May 03 the names, social security numbers and birth dates of 26 MILLION LIVING VETERANS from 1975 through the present were stolen.

Sure the VA is hopeful that the person who stole the information doesn't know what they have. Even wishful that he/she will have a blast of morality and return the information. Personally, I wouldn't hold my breath.

Fast action is the key to limiting the financial and emotional damages of identity theft. Don't wait until you see suspicious activities on your credit report. It can take months before you realize you are a victim.

01 Step.
Place a fraud alert on your credit account.
Contact one of the Credit Reporting Agencies by phone. (and don't be frustrated when you never get a real human.) You will need personal information including your social security number.

Equifax: 800-525-6285
Hearing impaired: Call 1-800-255-0056

Experian: 888-397-3742
TDD- 800-972-0322

TransUnion: 800-680-7289
TDD- 877-553-7803

Because it can be a hassle if you need to apply for credit, not everyone would advise a fraud alert in this situation. When an alert is placed on your account, a business must verify identity before issuing credit. This may cause some delays. It's your call. But, I wouldn't be taking chances with my financial future if I thought someone could have my name and social security number. Find out more details about Fraud Alerts from the FTC.

02 Step
Call each of the Credit Reporting Companies and request a copy of your credit report.

Equifax: 800-685-1111

Experian: 888-EXPERIAN

TransUnion: 800-888-4213

03 Step
When your credit reports arrive, review your credit reports carefully.

1. Highlight unfamiliar inquiries or accounts.
2. Highlight unusual charges on existing accounts.
3. Highlight errors in personal information such as Social Security number, name, address and employers.

04 Step
If any errors are found in the report, contact the credit reporting companies to correct

05 Step
If fraudulent accounts have been opened in your name or there are unusual charges on existing accounts, contact the creditors of the fraudulent accounts explain the situation and then follow up in writing. The contact information should be provided on the credit report.

If you aren't keeping good records, start now; good records are vital to clearing you name and credit.

JOYS has a few tips but The Identity Theft Resource Center has fantastic resources. Use them.

1. Templates for Letters to Creditor and Others.
2. A Detail Course of Action if you are a Victim.
3. Tips to Help You Organize Your Case.

06 Step
If fraudulent accounts and activity appear in your credit report File a Police Report
This step may be the most frustrating step, because many departments don't understand the importance of a police report to identity theft victims. Insist on a Report. The FTC provides some straight forward insight if you are having difficulties.

07 Steps
If fraudulent accounts and activity appear in your credit report File a Complaint with the FTC. Information you provide may help law enforcement official across the country track down identity thieves.

Finally, please know that placing a fraud alert on you account will not guarantee protection against identity theft.

You may consider one more step.
Each of the Credit Reporting Companies provides services that will monitor your account for unusual activity. Although a bit pricey, these services would pay for themselves if fraud were caught early. Free Trials including a Free Credit Report may also be available. You may be interested in:

1. Equifax Credit Watch™ 3-in-1 Monitoring
2. Experian Credit Manager™
3. TrueCredit™ from TransUnion

By law you are entitled to one free report, at your request, once a year. Many different situations may dictate another free report, at your request. Check the FTC web site for more information.
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