How to stop an identity thief in his tracks

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  • No one ever assumes they could be the victim of identity theft. But, the risks are real. An identity thief can steal your social security number and open new credit card accounts; rack up huge bills; apply for a mortgage and then, leave you with massive debt. And, most times, you won’t realize what’s happened until angry creditors start calling you and demanding payment.
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  • If you suspect that you are a victim of identity theft, you must take immediate action to protect yourself and your financial future.
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  • Check your credit report for any fraudulent new accounts or fraudulent activity on your current accounts and then put a fraud alert on your file.   Most times, you’ll only need to notify one bureau and then they will circulate the fraud alert to the others. Here is the contact info for the three major credit reporting bureaus. 
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  • Equifax: 1-877-576-5734;
  • www.alerts.equifax.com
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  • Experian: 1-888-397-3742;
  • www.experian.com/fraud
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  • TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289;
  • www.transunion.com
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  • Free annual credit report (once a year) at
  • www.annualcreditreport.com
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  • The fraud alert will notify your current creditors of the fact that your personal information has been compromised and force them to take special precautions when granting new credit on your account.   So, when an identity thief tries to use your social security number or other personal info to gain credit fraudulently, they will face an automatic road block. 
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  • The fraud alert will only last for 90 days, during which time, it may be more difficult to personally obtain new credit.  While this may prove a temporary inconvenience, your personal risk will be decreased. 
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  • Shut down all fraudulently created credit card accounts before the identity thief has a chance to start spending and dispute any charges that have been made.  Most credit card companies will hold you personally liable for all fraudulent charges, unless you notify them that the purchases were made without your permission.  The time limit for notifying a credit card company of fraudulent charges varies from 30 to 90 days. 
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  • Notify your bank and credit card companies in writing (and by phone) of the identity theft situation so that they freeze your accounts temporarily and require extra precautions when granting new credit on the account.
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  • File a criminal report with your local police department and use the report as back up when dealing with your credit card company when disputing fraudulent charges. 
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  • These measures may not completely prevent your identity from being stolen, but they can help limit the damage that an identity thief can cause.  
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  • If you find yourself in a situation where charges have been made without your permission, ask the credit reporting bureau to remove the charges from your file and attach a note to your file that explains the situation.  
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