What to do if you’re victimized

From the July 2014 Trumpet Print Edition

Act immediately

Time is crucial when you are trying to stop a thief before he does more damage.

Tell the credit agencies

Contact the fraud department of one of the three main credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). Confirm that the agency will notify the other two of abnormal activity on your account. Place a fraud alert and credit freeze on your credit report. Close any accounts that have been tampered with or that you did not open.

File a police report

The police will create an identity theft report. Get a copy of the police report, and hang on to it forever. You will need this to refute future claims against you by creditors.

Do not pay

You are the victim here. You are not responsible for any fraudulent charges. If an institution was tricked into lending money to a thief, the fault lies with the thief and then with the institution, not with you. Do not pay, even if debt collectors are harassing you.

Seek counsel

Visit reputable information sites like the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Education websites for more comprehensive guidelines on dealing with identity theft. These sites also provide good information on handling debt collectors, stopping businesses from selling the fraudulent debt, and cleaning up the mess.