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Identity Theft: What to Do if it Happens to You

Identity thieves are not particular about a victim’s age – even teens are targets of identity theft!

“Identity theft happens when an opportunity arises and thieves are not very particular to one’s age, if there is a credit/debit card number to be had. Identity theft — including, but not limited to, Social Security number (SSN), driver’s license, bank accounts, Person Identification Numbers (PIN), and credit/debit card numbers — is one of the fastest growing crimes against consumers, both young and old,” says the nonprofit Institute of Consumer Financial Education (ICFE), a San Diego based group.

If your wallet has been lost or stolen, usually within hours thieves may order expensive monthly cell phone service, apply for other credit cards, get credit lines approved and receive a PIN from the Department of Motor Vehicles to change your driving record information online, and more — unless you make a few very important telephone calls that will limit the damage.

First call the three major credit reporting agencies (Equifax:1-800-525-6285, Experian:1-888-397-3742 and Trans Union:1-800-680-7289) and ask them to immediately place a Fraud Alert on your name and SSN. The alert means any company that checks your credit knows your information was stolen and they have to contact you by phone to authorize new credit.

Next, notify the SSN national fraud hotline at 1-800-269-0271. Then, cancel your credit cards immediately. Be sure to have the toll free numbers and your card numbers kept handy so you know whom to call. If you have not made a list, a simple way is to photocopy the contents of your wallet (by copying both sides of each license, credit cards, etc.), then add their toll free phone numbers to the list.

Last, but not least, file a police report the same day, if at all possible, in the jurisdiction where it was stolen, because this proves to credit providers you are diligent, and is an important first step toward an investigation.

If you feel you have been a victim of identity theft, contact the FTC’s Identity Theft Hotline toll-free at 1-877-IDTHEFT (438-4338); by mail: Identity Theft Clearinghouse, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20580; or online:

Source: Institute of Consumer Financial Education

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