Do you suspect Identity Theft

Ossenfort: If you suspect that you identity has been stolen, there are a few things you can do.

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Dear Credit Guy, Not long ago,  I received a preapproved credit card application addressed to my home address, but the name on the application was a distant relative, who doesn't even live in the same state.  I called the credit card company, they assured me there was no account holder by that person's name with my address.  Should I suspect identity fraud?   Do I need to be worried?

Thank you!  Mary

Todd Ossenfort: Dear Mary

You should have every reason to be worried, at least for your own safety.  However, credit card fraud is one of the most common problems among family members. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) estimates 9 million Americans have their identities stolen every year.  Did this family member had access, at some point, to your personal information (Social Security number, date of birth, etc.)?  You should certainly check right away to see if your identity was stolen.  It may not have been your family that was involved, but it is wise to make sure no one else has used your information to open fraudulent credit card accounts.

First, check your credit reports from all three bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion).   Review your reports for any accounts that you do not recognize of do not belong to you. 

Second, If you find any accounts that do not belong with you, contact the credit bureau that is reporting the account and file a fraud alert. The alert will be added to your credit report and future lenders viewing your credit report will know to verify your identity, such as calling you  before granting new credit. 

Third, contact the creditor who opened the fraudulent account.  The contact information will be included on your credit report and let them know that the account is a fraud.  Each creditor will have its own of dealing with fraudulent accounts. Keep records of who you speak with, the time and date, and what they have requested from you. Furthermore, ask what you can expect from the creditor.

Once the account is reported as fraudulent, the creditor will investigate. The investigation will most likely include handwriting samples to make sure you were not the one signing for the card when making purchases.  This investigation can  lead to criminal charges for the person who opened the account. If that person is a relative, you will need to be prepared for the consequences to your relationship.

Constantly, review your credit reports several months after you believe the accounts have been cleared.  This will ensure no other fraudulent accounts have surfaced and that the fraudulent accounts have been removed.

For more information regarding identity theft, how to prevent it and what to do if it takes place, I recommend visiting the FTC's website.

Take care of your credit! 

Todd Ossenfort

Remember, if you suspect identity theft, you must act quickly to protect your credit.