If you are a victim of identity theft, take the following steps as soon as possible, and keep a record with the details of your conversations and copies of all correspondence.
Contact any one of the three consumer reporting companies to place a fraud alert on your credit report.
P.O. Box 105069, Atlanta, GA 30348-5069
P.O. Box 9701, Allen, TX 75013
Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 2000, Chester, PA 19016
Any of the three credit reporting companies you contact is required to contact the other two regarding the alert.
Once you place the fraud alert with the credit reporting companies, you're entitled to order one free copy of your credit report from each. Review these reports carefully, looking for inquiries from companies you don't know, accounts that are not yours, and overdue amounts that you can't explain.
Continue to check your credit reports on a regular basis to make sure no new fraudulent activity has occurred.
Call someone in the security or fraud department of each company where you believe fraudulent activity has taken place. It is best to also notify these companies in writing, sending copies of the supporting documents. Send these letters by certified return receipt mail and keep copies of all correspondence. Many companies will have fraud dispute forms available, or you may wish to file a report with your local police called an "Identity Theft Report". Filing with the police may give you greater protection in disputing the fraudulent claims. Providing a copy of the Identity Theft Report to the company requires them to stop reporting fraudulent information to the credit reporting agencies.
Once you have resolved your identity theft dispute with the company, ask for a letter stating that the company has discharged the debt and closed your disputed account. This letter is your best proof if errors about this account reappear on your credit report or you are contacted again by Merchants' Credit Guide Company or any other collection agency about the fraudulent debt.
Identity Theft Clearinghouse
Federal Trade Commission
600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20580
By filing an identity theft complaint with the FTC, you provide important information that can help law enforcement officials across the nation track down identity thieves and stop them. The FTC can refer your complaint to other government agencies and companies for further action, as well as investigate companies for violations of laws the agency enforces.
Upon receiving your Identity Theft Report, Merchants' Credit Guide Company will take appropriate steps to close your account and will no longer contact you regarding your fraudulent debt.
Merchants' Credit Guide Company is concerned with the rise of identity theft and offers these tips to minimize your risk of becoming a victim.
Never write your Social Security number on a check or other document, and do not carry your Social Security card in your wallet. Only give your Social Security number when absolutely necessary, and ask to use other types of identifiers. If your state uses your Social Security number as your driver's license number, you can ask to substitute another number. You can do the same if your health insurance company uses your Social Security number as your policy number.
Your employer and financial companies you deal with need your Social Security number for wage and tax reporting purposes. Other businesses may ask you for your Social Security number to do a credit check if you are applying for a loan or other credit, renting an apartment, or signing up for utilities. You can always ask companies who request your Social Security number why they need it, how they will use it, how they will protect it, and what happens if you do not give it to them. Some may deny you the service you seek. The decision to share it is up to you.
To protect yourself from an identity theif who may pick through your trash to capture your personal information, always shred your charge card receipts and statements, credit applications, insurance forms, physician invoices and statements, checks and bank statements, expired charge cards, and credit offers you get in the mail.
Mail your outgoing correspondence containing personally identifying information in post office boxes or at your local post office, rather than in an unsecured outside mailbox. Promptly collect incoming mail from your mailbox. If you're planning to be away from home, contact the U.S. Postal Service at (800) 275-8777 or online at https://www.usps.gov, to request a vacation hold. The Postal Service will hold your mail at your local post office for pick up or delivery when you are home to receive it.
Using the internet may leave you vulnerable to online scammers and identity thieves. For practical tips to guard against internet fraud, to secure your computer, and to protect your personal information online, visit https://www.onguardonline.gov.
On your credit card, bank and phone accounts, select a password that avoids using easily available information like your mother's maiden name, your date of birth, the last four digits of your Social Security number, your phone number, a series of consecutive numbers, or a single word that might appear in a dictionary. Specific combinations of letters, numbers, and special characters make the best passwords.
Don't give out information on the phone, by mail, or on the Internet unless you've initiated the contact and are sure you know who you're dealing with. Identity thieves are clever and may pose as representatives of banks, internet service providers, and even government agencies to get people to reveal their Social Security numbers, mother's maiden name, account numbers, and other identifying information.
Before sharing any personal information, confirm that you are dealing with a legitimate organization. Type their URL in the address line, rather than cutting and pasting it, or search the company name to see what you find. You can always call the company to see if the request is legitimate.
Safeguard your purse and wallet at all times. Leave your Social Security card in a safe place. Carry only the identification pieces and the credit and bank cards you'll actually need when you go out.
Keep your personal information in a secure place at home. Share your information only with those family members who have a legitimate need for it. Keep your purse or wallet in a safe place at work or wherever you are. Your applications, reports, forms, statements and other papers that have your sensitive personal information should be kept in a locked drawer or firesafe at home, or in a bank safe deposit box.