If you have received a notice of a possible breach in your sensitive consumer data please follow a few simple steps to ensure that your information is protected.
1. Place a fraud alert on your credit file and get your credit report. Call each of the three major credit reporting companies listed below and tell them to place a fraud alert on your file. A fraud alert tells creditors to contact you before they open new accounts or change your current account. This can protect you if a thief tries to open an account in your name. At the same time, ask each credit reporting company to send you a free fraud‐related copy of your credit report. That allows you to see if anyone has tried to open accounts or has created debts in your name.
2. Read your credit reports to spot any fraud. Check the reports line by line to see if anyone has tried to open accounts or created debts in your name. Even if you don’t spot fraud on your credit report at first, check periodically. Everyone has a right to get one free copy of their credit report annually from each of the three credit reporting companies. Ordering a free report every four months from a different credit reporting agency each time lets you monitor your file and spot errors early.
3. If you find suspicious activity on an account, follow the FTC’s step‐by‐step guidance. If you spot the signs of identity theft, the FTC’s identity theft site has advice for consumers. The brochure, Taking Charge: What To Do If Your Identity Is Stolen, offers tips on how to help protect yourself.
4. If a debt collector contacts you about a debt you believe is the result of identity theft, dispute the debt in writing within 30 days after the debt collector contacts you. The FTC has advice for consumers about disputing debts and other actions you can take if an identity thief opens accounts in your name.
5. Before paying a debt, take steps to verify that the debt collector is legitimate. If someone calls you about a debt, ask for his or her name, company, street address, and telephone number. Demand that the person provide you with a written notice about the debt. By law, the notice must include the amount of the debt, the name of the creditor you owe, and your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), including your right to dispute the debt. Don’t discuss any debt with a caller until you get that written notice. The FTC has guidance about your rights under the law.
6. Never give out or confirm your personal financial information or other sensitive data to someone who contacts you. Now that your personal information is out there, scammers may call you, pretending to be debt collectors. These fake debt collectors may already have sensitive data about you that they may use to trick you into revealing more information. The FTC has tips on how to protect yourself from fake debt collectors.
If you think your identity has been stolen, call the FTC at 1‐877‐ID‐THEFT (877‐438‐4338) or file an online report with the FTC.
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