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What You Should Do If You Become a Victim of Identity Theft

Prepared By: Melissa C. Marsh, Los Angeles Business Attorney
Written: February 2009

If you discover that you've been the victim of identity theft, the Federal Trade Commission recommends that you take the following actions immediately:

  1. Contact the fraud departments of each of the three major credit bureaus:
    (1) Equifax: (800) 525-6285;
    (2) Experian: (888) 397-3742; and
    (3) Trans Union: (800) 680-7289.

    Tell each of the three credit bureaus to flag your credit file with a "Fraud Alert." Ask each of them to include a statement in your credit file that creditors should call you if they receive requests for new accounts. Be sure to provide them with a telephone number where potential credit providers can reach you. And, ask them to send you a free copy of your credit report so you can flag any incorrect information.

  2. Consider the Placement of a Security Freeze on your Credit File.
    When a security freeze is placed on your credit file with each of the three credit bureaus, no one, not even you, can open any new lines of credit, unless the credit freeze is either permanently or temporarily lifted. In California, each of the credit bureaus are required to waive the $10 fee to place and remove a security freeze if they have been presented with a police report evidencing the fact that your identity has been stolen or compromised.

  3. Contact the Security, or Fraud Department, of Every Bank and Credit Provider You Deal With.
    You must put everyone you deal with on notice that your identity has been compromised. Inquire about any accounts that have been tampered with, or opened fraudulently. Follow up the phone call with a letter detailing your concerns. Most banks require you to inform them of any problems with your accounts, fraudulent charges, etc... within 60 days. If you do so, the bank, or credit provider, generally cannot hold you responsible for the fraudulent charges, or activity.

  4. File a police report, and keep a copy of the report in case your creditors need proof of the crime.

What should I do if the local police won't take an identity theft report?

This is a well known, yet under reported problem. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommends you take the following steps:

  • Gather as much evidence of the fraudulent activity as you can, including your credit report, debt collection letters, bank statements, etc...

  • Complete and sign the FTC's ID Theft Affidavit (.pdf).

  • Present all of your information to the police department. Be persistent. Stress the importance of a police report. Many creditors require a police report to resolve a dispute. Additionally, the consumer reporting bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and Transunion) will only automatically block the fraudulent accounts and bad debts from appearing on your credit report, if you can give them a copy of the police report.

  • If your local police department insists that identity theft is not a crime within their jurisdiction, or under your state law, ask to file a Miscellaneous Incident Report instead.

If you still can't get your local police to take a report, try contacting the Attorney Generalís office, your city council person, or your congress person.

© 2009 Melissa C. Marsh. All Rights Reserved.

If you have additional questions, or need specific legal advice tailored to your specific needs, please schedule a low cost Telephone Consultation.
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Disclaimer: The information presented on this web site was prepared by Melissa C. Marsh for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. The information provided in my articles and alerts should not be relied upon, or used as a substitute for professional legal advice from an attorney you retain to advise or represent you. Your use of this Internet site does not create an attorney- client relationship. Transmission of this article is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. All uses of the contents of this site, other than personal uses, are prohibited. You may print or email a copy of any information posted on this web site for your own personal, non-commercial, use, but you may not publish any of the articles or posts on this web site without the Express Written Permission of Melissa C. Marsh.

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Located in Los Angeles, California, the Law Office of Melissa C. Marsh handles business law and corporation law matters as a lawyer for clients throughout Los Angeles including Burbank, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Valley Village, North Hollywood, Woodland Hills, Hollywood, West LA as well as Riverside County, San Fernando, Ventura County, and Santa Clarita. Attorney Melissa C. Marsh has considerable experience handling business matters both nationally and internationally. We routinely assist our clients with incorporation, forming a California corporation, forming a California llc, partnership, annual minutes, shareholder meetings, director meetings, getting a taxpayer ID number (EIN), buying a business, selling a business, commercial lease review, employee disputes, independent contractors, construction, and personal matters such as preparing a will, living trust, power of attorney, health care directive, and more.