The discovery of identity theft is bound to be a very anxious and stressful experience and it can certainly wreak havoc on your finances and credit. If you suspect identity theft, act quickly to minimize any negative consequences.

Here are 5 key steps to take to stop an identity thief in their tracks.

1) Put a fraud alert on your credit reports – To place a 90-day fraud alert on all three of your credit reports, you only need to contact one of the three credit reporting agencies (Experian,Equifax or TransUnion). When you place the initial alert, the agency will automatically notify the other two for you. Be sure to request a copy of your credit reports to ensure there aren’t any transactions you don’t recognize.

2) Call the fraud department at the companies and financial institutions where you know the identity thief used your personal information. Part of this step may include freezing your accounts that have been compromised. For example, If you know your credit card was stolen, report the theft to the credit card issuer. If your checkbook or debit card was stolen, contact your bank.

3) Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). File an Identity Theft Affidavit and create an Identity Theft Report. The FTC will provide you with information about what to do next, depending on what type of fraud was committed.

4) File a police report. Contact your local law enforcement office and report the theft. Be sure to get a copy of the police report and/or the report number. Both your police report and the FTC Identity Theft Affidavit combine to create your Identity Theft Report.

5) Report identity theft to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau by submitting a complaint. Your complaint helps law enforcement officials across the country in their investigations. Visit the CFPB’s website to find out more information on submitting an identity theft complaint.

Remember, identity theft can have a negative effect on your credit score. For instance, if a thief opens three new credit cards in your name, the inquiries can each lower your score, the credit card balances will affect your utilization ratio, and the payment history (or failure to pay) can have a big impact on your credit rating.

The key thing to remember is that identity theft hurts your credit the most when it goes unnoticed. Once you catch on, you can take steps to shut down fraudulent accounts and clean up your credit.

If you have questions or were a victim of identity theft and need help cleaning up your credit report, THD Credit Consulting can help. Click here to schedule a free consultation today.

-Erik Kaplan

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