Stay alert for identity theft

This was originally published on Monday, October 10, 2017, in the Pacific Daily News.  Click here to subscribe to the PDN.

With security breaches becoming more prevalent and with most of our identities being stored online, it’s imperative that you stay alert for identity theft. Identity theft can ruin your credit score and can cost you money if you do not catch it early.

If you do become a victim of identity theft, act quickly to start repairing the damage. The sooner you act, the better chance you have to minimize the loss of financial accounts and to repair your identity.

Contact the Federal Trade Commission and report that you are a victim of identity theft. You can do this online by going to http://www.consumer.ftc.gov. You can also call toll free at 1-877-ID THEFT (1-877-438-4338) or contact them by mail at Consumer Response Center, FTC, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C., 20580.

Place an initial fraud alert with one of the three national credit reporting companies. You only need to contact one. By law, the credit monitoring agencies must share with the other two companies. A fraud alert will last for 90 days and can be extended once a police report is filled. The fraud alert will make it harder for the thief to open more accounts under your name and is best for those who are unsure if their identity has stolen.

  • Equifax: Call 1-800-525-6285 or write to P.O. Box 740250, Atlanta, GA, 30374-0250.
  • Experian: Call 1-888-EXPERIAN or 1-888-397-3742, fax to 1-800-301-7196, or write to P.O. Box 1017, Allen, TX, 75013.
  • Trans Union: Call 1-800-680-7289 or write to P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA, 92634.

Order a copy of your credit report. When you place an initial fraud alert, you are entitled to a free credit report even if you had requested a free one in the last year.

Contact the companies at which your account has been tampered. Send a letter explaining the identification theft. Send the letter by certified mail and ask for a receipt. Dispute any errors on the account.

Create an identity theft report by filing a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and print your identity theft affidavit. Take the affidavit to the police and file a report. Your identity theft affidavit and police report make your identity theft report.

Contact the Department of Revenue and Taxation to report violations if you believe that your identity theft may impact your taxes.

Contact the Social Security Administration if you feel that your Social Security number is in jeopardy or was compromised. You may need to request for a new number.

Contact the Postal Inspection Service to change your address if you believe your identity theft happened by mail.

Contact your banking institutions as soon as possible. If the theft happened due to a lost or stolen credit card or ATM card, you will need to get a police report stating what happened before going to the institution. You should go through all your account statements and search for any unauthorized or suspicious activity.

Keep records of all your communications. If you fax or mail documents, be sure to get confirmation that you sent the documents and that the company received the documents. It may take a while to get your finances back in order after the crime. You should change all of your online passwords and debit/credit card PINs.

Michael Camacho is president and chief executive officer of Personal Finance Center. He has more than 20 years of experience in retail banking and at financial institutions in Guam and Hawaii. If there is a topic you’d like Michael to cover, please email him at moneymattersguam@yahoo.com and read past columns at the Money Matters blog at www.moneymattersguam.wordpress.com.

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