If you're reading this, there's probably no time to waste. If you suspect that you are a victim of credit fraud or identity theft, here's how to get help:

1. Report the theft to the fraud center at each of the three major credit bureaus.
Ask that a "fraud alert" be placed on your file. Also request that no new lines of credit be granted without first seeking your approval. You'll be asked to record the incident(s) in writing, and include copies of any documents (e.g., a police report, correspondence with your bank or other creditors) to be used as evidence. Here's contact information for each major credit bureau:

  • Equifax (http://www.equifax.com/), P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241; report fraud by calling (800) 525-6285
  • Experian (formerly TRW, http://www.experian.com/), P.O. Box 1017, Allen, TX 75013; report fraud by calling (800) 301-7195
  • TransUnion (http://www.transunion.com/), Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92634; report fraud by calling (800) 680-7289

2. Close accounts that have been fraudulently accessed or opened.
To do so, contact the security departments of the appropriate creditors or financial institutions. If you open any new accounts, put passwords on them (and don't use the obvious ones, like your mother's maiden name, your Social Security number, or the first six digits of your deceased great aunt-in-law's phone number).

3. File a report with local police, or the police department where the identity theft took place.
Be sure to get a copy of the report (or report number) in case the bank, credit card company, or others need proof of the crime.

4. Be a tattletale.
The FTC provides an ID Theft Affidavit that can help you organize and accurately record your complaint. All three major credit bureaus and most of the large lenders accept this form as notice from you. You can also call the ID Theft Clearinghouse toll-free at (877) ID-THEFT (438-4338) to report the theft. For more information on how to deal with credit-related ID theft, check out the ID Theft website. If the crime involves your Social Security number, call (800) 269-0271, or visit the Social Security Administration's website.

For more on protecting yourself from fraud, read about: