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Identity Theft
Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes, and happens when personal information—such as your name, credit card number, social security number or drivers license number—is stolen and used to assume your identity. Imposters can use this information to open bank accounts, make purchases, or even get an apartment in your name. All of this activity will show up on your credit report and may affect your credit score negatively.

While it may be impossible to completely safeguard yourself from identity theft, regularly monitoring your credit report will let you know what accounts are open in your name. You are entitled to one free credit report per year from each of the 3 major credit bureaus. If you ever suspect identity theft, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommends that you:

1. Contact the fraud departments of any one of the 3 major credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit file. The fraud alert requests creditors to contact you before opening any new accounts or making any changes to your existing accounts. As soon as the credit bureau confirms your fraud alert, the other two credit bureaus will be automatically notified to place fraud alerts. Once the alert is placed, you may order a free copy of your credit report from all three major credit bureaus.

2. Close the accounts that you know or believe have been tampered with or opened fraudulently. Use the ID Theft Affidavit when disputing new unauthorized accounts.

3. File a police report. Get a copy of the report to submit to your creditors and others that may require proof of the crime.

4. File your complaint with the FTC. The FTC maintains a database of identity theft cases used by law enforcement agencies for investigations.

For further information on recovering from identity theft and help with specific problems, see the FTC identity theft information pages and their information on identity theft victim’s rights. For tips on protecting yourself from credit card fraud, see the FTC’s page on avoiding credit and charge card fraud.