Identity theft is a crime in which a criminal uses another party's personal information to commit fraud. This crime can be as simple as illegally using another person’s credit cards to make unauthorized purchases or as complicated as having identification created in the other party's name and using it to open accounts and access medical services. If you believe you've been a victim of identity theft, there are several steps you can take to report it and protect your identity going forward. They include notifying authorities; contacting your credit card company and bank; having a fraud alert placed on your credit card file; and notifying utility companies.
If you believe someone has stolen your identity, the first thing you should usually do is contact law enforcement officials. This typically means visiting your local police department and filing a police report. You may do well to take along any evidence you have of the crime, but you can report identity theft even if you have little evidence on paper. Depending on where you live, you may have to report the crime to the police department in the jurisdiction in which the crime was committed as well. You can learn the steps you’ll need to take by asking the law enforcement official who assists you for information.
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It’s also imperative to contact your credit card company and bank the moment you notice errors on your statement or discrepancies in your account balance. If you wait until you are 100-percent sure you are dealing with a case of fraud, the criminal may have more opportunity to harm you financially. In many cases, banks and credit card companies have processes in place for dealing with fraud, including denying new credit card charges and putting stop payments on checks. They may also work with authorities to track down identity theft criminals. You may receive new account numbers so you can continue to make your own transactions, but this may depend on the extent of the damage the criminal had done, fraud policies in your country, and your financial institution’s policies.
The actions of an identity thief may cost you not only in terms of money, but also in terms of damage to your credit. It’s wise to contact all of the major credit bureaus in your country and report the identity theft. Often, credit bureaus will place a fraud alert on your credit card file. In fact, some countries have a process that allows you to call just one credit card company to report identity theft; that credit card company will then notify the others for you. You can also use your credit reports to look for new accounts the identity thief may have opened, so you can take steps to report and close them.
Often, people who have become victims of this type of crime overlook utility companies when reporting identity theft. This is a critical step, however, as a criminal may use your identifying information to open telephone and energy accounts. As such, you may do well to report identity theft to utility companies as well.
If you have trouble in your attempts to report identity theft, you may decide to seek an attorney’s help. Sometimes attorneys may have more success with getting law enforcement officials to help victims of this type of fraud. Additionally, an attorney may have more ideas about ways to deal with identity theft.