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What steps can I take to prevent identity theft and what can I do if someone steals my identity?
If you feel ID theft is a concern, or have reason to believe you may be a victim of ID theft, you may place a "fraud alert" on your credit file, by contacting the fraud department at one of the three major credit bureaus for which contact information appears below:
- Equifax: 1-800-525-6285; www.equifax.com
- Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN or 1-888-397-3742; www.experian.com
- TransUnion: 1-888-909-8872; www.transunion.com
You only need to notify one credit bureau. The one that processes your fraud alert will notify the other two. Those two then must place fraud alerts in your file.
Placing a “fraud alert” on your credit file can help prevent a thief from opening new accounts or making changes to your existing accounts. Be aware, however, that placing an alert on your credit file also may prevent you from opening an account unless the financial institution can contact you and positively confirm your identity and that you are applying for credit.
In addition, people who think their personal information has been misused should contact the local police. They also can contact and file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission by phone at 877-IDTHEFT or 1-877-438-4338 or TDD 1-866-653-4261 or on the Internet at www.identitytheft.gov.
As always, protect your Social Security number, financial institution accounts and credit card numbers, and other personal information, especially in response to unsolicited requests from strangers. Fraudsters may try to trick you into divulging personal information, or they may steal sensitive mail or documents from homes and offices.