You probably think it could never happen to you, but identity theft happens to millions of Americans each year. Signs of identity theft include errors on your credit report, bills you don't recognize, and of course, creditors calling about defaulted debts you know nothing about.
If you are a victim of identity theft, here are some steps you should take as soon as possible:
File a police report. Report the fraud to your local police department. Be sure to get the badge number and name of the officer who takes your report, as well a case number if one is assigned immediately. That will make it easier to update the report, if you need to add affected accounts or report additional incidents.
Contact the FTC and complete their affidavit. This will also help you dispute fraudulent accounts.
Check your credit report. Separate legitimate accounts from the fraudulent ones. Also, note which ones have been affected by fraud.
Contact the three major credit bureaus. Ask Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion to place a fraud alert and attach a statement to your credit report so that anyone interested in extending you (or your imposter) credit will know to request extra identification. This should (hopefully) prevent your identity from being used to open new fraudulent accounts. If you've filed a police report, you can send it to the credit bureaus and request an "extended alert," which lasts for seven years.
Close any affected accounts. You should close any account affected by the identity fraud, including credit card and bank accounts. You should also close any account that someone might be able to access with information they've stolen from you, such as your health insurance card (contact your insurance provider to request a new card with a new ID number), or your driver's license (contact the DMV for a new license).
Close fraudulent accounts. This is the step that people tend to dread the most. You will need to contact the creditors of the fraudulent accounts to notify them that the accounts are fraudulent. Ask for the application and transaction records, and tell them you want the accounts blocked from your file. You may need to provide a copy of the police report to obtain the information, and be persistent in following up to ensure the creditors complete the tasks they need to do in order to clear your credit report.
Have each credit bureau issue a Letter of Clearance. A Letter of Clearance from each credit bureau will help establish your innocence if fraudulent accounts appear in future credit reports, or collection agencies contact you regarding a fraudulent debt.
Take copious and accurate notes. Keep a record of everything you do, and everyone you talked to. You never know when you might need to refer back to them.