Immediate Steps to Take If You Think Your Identity Has Been Stolen by Robert F. Brennan, Esq.

Just today one of my good friends wrote & wanted a consultation with me because he gave out some of his personal information to an unrecognized website. He is now concerned about a possible identity theft and wrote to ask me of the best way to prevent this from happening. As I’ve previously written, there is no foolproof way of completely preventing identity theft, for any number of reasons, but you can reduce the chances of it happening and you can also greatly reduce the changes that you will be damaged by it if it does happen to you. Following is our email exchange with some of these useful tips. One note: obviously if you begin to see affirmative evidence that you ARE the victim of an identity theft, you will need to pull your credit reports more frequently than once every three months or so.

The once-every-three-month interval is what I recommend to persons who learn that their personal information may have been compromised but do not yet have any evidence that they have actually been the victim of an identity theft. If you become the victim of an identity theft, at least until you are sure that your extended fraud alerts are working correctly, you probably need to pull your credit reports from all three bureaus at least monthly, if not more frequently. You might want to consider a credit report monitoring service if indeed you discover that you have been the victim of an identity theft. Here are the tips I provided to my friend:

“Hi Bob,

“I need some advice. It doesn’t necessarily have to be free. What do you suggest as the best way to set up protection against identity theft? In addition to the possibility I may have done something rather doffus (given BD and SS over the Web…late at night booking a car rental a weird window popped up and I filled it in) I recognize the need to be protected. I’ve heard of LifeLock and I know there are a few others.

“Let me know. Your friend, Keith.”

RESPONSE:

“Keith, before you go spending a bunch of $$$ on me, ‘cuz I can get expensive, why not read through my blog, which has a lot of info on this and which you’ll probably need in life anyway. Short answer: there is no foolproof method of preventing id theft, but you can control it and also reduce the chances of it happening by quite a bit, and you can also reduce the chances that it will damage you if it does happen. Giving out your personal info to an unsecure and unrecognized website was not a good move. At this point, you need to start pulling your credit reports from all three bureaus every three months or so to monitor them, and promptly dispute in writing any suspicious entries directly to the bureaus. If you can recall anything about the weird screen to which you gave your personal info, you should report it online at www.ftc.gov, as the Federal Trade Commission tries to monitor these things in conjunction with the FBI. If evidence of identity theft does appear on your credit reports or in anything you receive in the mail, you need to promptly file a police report, giving everything you know, and then send copies of the police report to all three bureaus and request an “extended fraud alert”. This makes it so that, for seven years, any potential new creditor will need to call you directly and confirm secret personal information before opening a credit line in your name.

“I do not recommend “Lifelock” or competing products because it’s stuff you can do by yourself without charge, such as supplying police reports or requesting fraud alerts on your credit bureau reports. If you read my blog, you’ll probably know how to do just about everything that Lifelock does for you, and you won’t have to pay anything.

About The Author

Robert F. Brennan, Esq. is a principal with Brennan, Wiener & Associates, an AV-rated law firm in La Crescenta, CA. His firm specializes in consumer protection litigation, including lemon law, car dealer fraud and consumer class actions. He can be reached through his website: http://brennanlaw.com

Finally, a Step by Step Blueprint to Identity Theft Protection Without Those Monthly Fees. CLICK HERE!

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