You just found out that you are a victim of identity theft. So many things are crashing through your brain, including what your first step will be. Here's a list of things you should do if you've been victimized by an identity thief.
1. If you've gotten collection calls for debts you don't owe, speak with the debt collector or credit card issuer. Take notes about the conversation, and get the name of the person you're talking with, and his or her phone number and address. Follow up the phone call with a certified letter so that the collector also has a record of your conversation. It's important whenever you receive collection calls, that you are pleasant, and that you collect and record information about the debt. Check into any charges or debts immediately.
2. Opt out of programs that share personal information – this includes your bank, broker, credit card issuer and department stores.
3. Change your passwords online. Make them difficult to discern, and use upper and lower case letters, as well as symbols and numbers.
4. Place a fraud alert on your credit reports. You can call Equifax at 1-800-685-1111, Experian at 1-888-397-3742, and TransUnion at 1-800-916-8800. You should also get a copy of your credit reports, and carefully review what's there. If you find errors, report them to the respective bureau.
5. Close any accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently. You will also want to let other creditors know about the theft, even if the accounts you have with them are untouched.
6. Notify the Social Security Administration of the theft, even if your card wasn't stolen. You can call the SSA at 1-800-772-1213.
7. File a police report with local law enforcement, and notify the Federal Trade Commission as well by calling their hotline at 1-877-438-4338.
8. You may refuse to pay off debts you did not create, but tell the debt collector you are willing to cooperate. You will need to put your dispute in writing, and send it to the creditor. If creditors or debt collectors harass you, report them to the FTC at 1-312-353-4423.
Last of all, from here on out, make sure that your personal and financial information is secured. Shred any document that bears your information before disposal, and be careful online. Identity theft is a part of life – it doesn't, however, have to be a part of your personal experience.