If your social security number has been stolen, there are a few steps that can be taken to protect yourself from identity theft. Promptly file a police report to legally document the potential breach of your personal information. Next you’ll want to report the theft by contacting the fraud department at either Experian, Equifax or TransUnion, the three credit reporting agencies. They can work with you to review and, if needed, remove any unauthorized accounts and prevent future fraudulent activity.
Contact the three credit bureaus as soon as you learn that your social security number has been stolen to initiate a fraud alert. Once this is done, creditors will receive an alert message prior to obtaining access to your credit report, which will require more extensive identification and permission, thus preventing unauthorized individuals from opening accounts with your social security number. Once initiated, your credit file will remain under a fraud alert for approximately 90 days however you can opt to extend the duration up to a maximum period of seven years.
Review your credit report to ensure the accuracy of all of the accounts currently being reported under your name and social security number. You can obtain one free copy of your credit report from each credit reporting agency per year by visiting annualcreditreport.com or you may contact each bureau separately to obtain a copy. Typically, credit bureaus charge for access to your report, however copies are granted free of charge to identity theft victims.
File a dispute for any fraudulent account activity that appears on your report. Dispute claims can be initiated online from each credit bureau’s website, in writing via mail or over the phone. Additionally, you’ll want to contact the creditor directly to report the unauthorized account and work on getting it closed and removed from your report. The investigation process can take up to 60 days and may require you to provide more detailed information to either the credit bureau or creditor before a final decision is made. You will receive written notification confirming whether or not the disputed account will be removed from your file.
Continue to monitor your credit report periodically to ensure there are no additional fraudulent accounts opened using your social security number. You can do this free of charge by simply accessing your report each year from annualcreditreport.com or, for more frequent access, you can purchase for ongoing credit report monitoring services from any of the credit bureaus.
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