Police unveiled one of the largest identity theft scandals in New York last week, with authorities busted 111 suspects tied to a global crime ring based largely in Queens. Using stolen credit card data, the thieves rang up millions of dollars worth of luxury merchandise and services all over the world.
For the unfortunate victims of this crime – or any ID theft scandal – they will need to clean up the mess on their own. Here’s some immediate advice:
Place a Fraud Alert
Contact one of the three major credit-reporting agencies – TransUnion, Equifax or Experian – to place a fraud alert on your file, which should prevent more false accounts from being opened in your name. According to the Federal Trade Commission, you need only contact one of the agencies since it is required to tell the other two to place a fraud alert on their versions of your credit report, as well. Here’s their contact info:
- TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289; www.transunion.com
- Equifax: 1-800-525-6285; www.equifax.com
- Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742); www.experian.com
Review Your Credit Reports
When you place a fraud alert on your credit file, you’re able to receive a free copy of your credit report, one from each of the three agencies. Check your reports for any incorrect information.
Close Bogus Accounts
If a thief has opened any credit cards or bank account illegally in your name, you should dispute the information found on your credit report by notifying both the credit-reporting agency that lists the false information, as well the fraud department at the related bank or creditor. Banks and creditors should issue you cards with new account numbers. You should change all your related PINs and passwords, as well.
Tell the Police and the FTC
Notify your local police department and get a copy of the police report, which will offer great backup support when you’re trying to make your case with creditors and the credit bureaus.
photo courtesy: Catatronic’s photostream on Flickr