Discovering that someone has opened a credit card in your name is a very disconcerting feeling. It is identity theft in its purest form and often leaves the victim feeling helpless, angry and ill at ease.
Knowing that someone else has taken out a credit card in your name will often leave you fearful of what the future holds and concerned about what else you haven’t yet discovered. Luckily, there are recourses to be taken.
Time is of the essence when you discover that someone has opened a credit card in your name. You want to act on that information and shut it down immediately before any more charges can be incurred in your name. It will take time and effort on your part to stop the use of the credit card, begin investigation into the identity theft that has occurred and repair any damage done to your credit score.
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Step One: Close the Account
Immediately contact the creditor who issued the card and inform them of the situation. Fraud affidavits are typically needed by the creditor. Next you will want to contact the police and make an identity theft report. You will also want to ask the creditor to provide you with copies of all the paperwork associated with the account including transactions and the application. However, you will need to have a police report, as well as identification and a FTC or other acceptable affidavit in order to get this information (Source: PrivacyRights.org).
Step Two: Contact The Federal Trade Commission and Law Enforcement
After discovering that someone has opened a credit card in your name you should contact the Federal Trade Commission online or by phone at 1-877-ID THEFT (877-438-4338) or TDD at 202-326-2502, or by mail Consumer Response Center, FTC, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20580. However considering the need for timeliness, reporting the issue by mail is not the ideal choice.
The FTC refers your case to the appropriate law enforcement department and will provide you with valuable information on how to handle the situation. You may also wish to contact a local FBI office to report this type of fraud.
In addition, if your social security number was used to get the fraudulent credit card, and it likely was, you will want to contact Social Security Administration to report fraudulent use of your number.
Step Three: Contact The Credit Reporting Bureaus
Contact the fraud division of the three major credit reporting bureaus, which are Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. You will need to answer the questions from each regarding the identity theft. It is also wise to order a copy of your credit report from each of these companies at this time. It is free to request it once a year however a credit report monitoring service is recommended to make sure that you are alerted if someone tries to steal your identity in the future or if there are errors in your report that you need to be alerted of (click here for a review of top credit report offers).
If you have already previously requested your credit report this year, the cost of an additional report is less than $10. By getting an up-to-date report you can see exactly if and how the fraudulent credit card was used. As you discover errors on your credit report, you will need to dispute them through the individual reporting bureaus. The report will provide you with a phone number to contact in order to do so.
Contact information for the major credit reporting bureaus is as follows:
Equifax Fraud Division: phone (800) 525-6285 or by mail P.O. Box 740250, Atlanta, GA 30374-0250
For a credit report phone (800) 685-1111 or request it in writing to P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241.
Transunion Fraud Division: phone (800) 680-7289 or by mail P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92634.
For a credit report phone (800) 888-4213 or request it in writing to P.O. Box 390, Springfield, PA 19064
Experian Fraud Division: phone (888) 397-3742, fax (800) 301-7196, or by mail P.O. Box 1017, Allen, TX 75013
For a credit report phone (888) EXPERIAN or request it in writing to P.O. Box 2104, Allen TX 75013.
Step Four: Take Control of Your Credit
Once the authorities have been alerted, as well as the credit bureaus and other necessary government departments, you can start to take back control of your own identity. Make the credit reporting bureau put security freezes on your reports to limit the accessibility of your information in order to reduce the possibility of repeat identity theft.
If you are contacted by collection agencies, explain that you were a victim of identity theft and are not responsible for the debt. Get their contact information also, so you can contact them in writing explaining the situation. Be sure to request written confirmation from them that they have received the information and you are indeed not responsible for the debt (Source: PrivacyRights.org).
It may even take closing all your credit cards to get your identity theft under control (although this is not recommended unless as a last resort as closing a credit card account can have additional negative implications on your credit score). When you are ready to re-establish credit or to just get a card you know is secure and no one has access to, you can do so easily and securely by using taking advantage of our free “Chaser” tool. This device will help you find the exact card that best suits your needs. Re-establish your real identity and your true credit habits through the use of a new credit card.