For many, having their identity stolen is a nightmare scenario. A large number of things can go wrong and the resulting problems can seem overwhelming.
But, says television station WGAL in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, there are a number of steps that consumers who have fallen victim to identity theft can take. Most are quick and easy to complete, and can help stop any further damage to the consumer's credit, accounts and reputation.
The first step is to contact the Federal Trade Commission immediately. The FTC has a website, hotline and mailing address where consumers can report their situation, the station said.
The station also says that it's important to contact a number of other agencies. If a consumer suspects the identity thief has filled out a change of address form to re-route the mail, the consumer should contact their local office of the Postal Inspection Service. Similarly, they should also get in touch with the Social Security Administration if they believe their Social Security number is being used fraudulently, and the Internal Revenue Service if they believe their identification is being used in connection with tax violations.
Consumers should also contact all three credit bureaus if they think their credit information has been compromised. The station said each bureau has a fraud unit with its own hotline for concerned consumers to call.
Finally, the station says consumers should contact all creditors with whom their information has been used without their knowledge. They should then also contact all financial institutions where they have accounts that have been compromised, and they may need to cancel accounts or at least place stop-payment orders. They should also call check verification companies to ensure that no new bank accounts are opened in their name.
According to a new report from the Fort Scott (Kansas) Tribune, the number of identity thefts across the country has increased dramatically over the last few years. The paper cited one identity protection expert as saying that there were over 11 million instances of identity theft in 2009 alone.
The U.S. Senate recently named June "National Internet Safety Month" in an effort to increase awareness of the growing threats to consumers' online safety, the paper said. The paper cited an FBI report that said there were more than 336,000 complaints filed last year, and the associated loss was approximately $559 million.