Your Social Security number is essentially the key to your identity, and a code that you will need to provide whenever you undergo any kinds of borrowing transactions. If this number is to fall into the hands of a less-than-savory character, they could take advantage of your good name and, presumably, positive credit to open up news lines, run up major debts and leave you to contend with the damage.
So what kind of steps should you take if you believe that your identity has been compromised? Here’s a brief rundown of what avenues you should explore to alleviate any damage as soon as possible.
Stay calm and don’t panic, because a thought out, methodical approach to solving this problem will guarantee you aren’t making rash decisions that only make the issue at hand more unmanageable.
- Reach out to the three credit reporting agencies responsible for collecting and scoring your financial activity so that the work of the thief won’t negatively affect your credit score. Here are the main contacts for each: Equifax: 1-800-525-6285; www.equifax.com, TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289; www.transunion.com, Experian: 1-888-397-3742; www.experian.com.
- Get a copy of your credit report while you are talking to the appropriate bureaus and inspect it thoroughly for any accounts that may have been opened fraudulently.
- Contact the Federal Trade Commision and fill out an identity theft complaint form.
- The Social Security Administration should be your next point of contact as they not only have a complaint form of their own but even more resources on their website to help you recover.
Most importantly, take precautionary steps after you’ve become the victim to keep better tabs on your identity by enlisting in a credit monitoring service.