You will eventually be solicited with countless offers throughout life after filing bankruptcy, and you may also be applying for new types of credit, purchasing on installment, or engaging in other types of credit-related transactions. If this is the case, you are a potential target for a powerful new kind of scam-identity theft.
Identity theft is a type of consumer fraud that occurs when a person steals your identity for their own illegal use. Identity thieves do this by collecting vital personal information about you, such as your social security number, birth date, and credit card/bank account numbers.
The thieves then use this information to obtain driver's licenses, state identification cards, credit cards, bank accounts and other legal documents under your name but for their own benefit. In fact, identity thieves have been known to even fraudulently buy cars, houses, and get married under their false names.
Everyone needs to worry about identity theft. It is the country's fastest growing type of financial crime, and billions of dollars are stolen from unsuspecting victims annually.
But if you are trying to rebuild your credit after bankruptcy, you need to worry even more about identity theft than most people.
Identity theft is very hard to fight. Most law enforcement agencies have few resources available to fight it, so you are left largely with slow and complicated self-help remedies if you find yourself a victim of identity theft.
But even more important is the fact that if you are a victim of identity theft, you will have all sorts of problems with your credit report, which can take years to fix. When you're starting to rebuild your credit, this is the last thing you need. So, be extra cautious and try to take steps to prevent identity theft from happening.
Unfortunately, many consumers don't realize they are victims of identity theft until they are embarrassingly denied credit, or are contacted by unfamiliar creditors looking for payment on debts that the thieves have run up. To avoid becoming a victim, periodically check your credit with the three big credit bureaus: TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. If your credit report shows bogus or unfamiliar accounts, or even applications for credit that you don't remember making, there is a chance you are a victim of identity theft.
Federal credit fraud law protects you in these situations. It provides that creditors who wrongly extend credit to identity thieves are responsible for collecting these debts from the identity thief who duped them. Many times creditors will write-off the loss for lack of their ability to collect.
If you discover that you're a victim of identity theft, there are several steps that you should take as soon as possible:
File a police report with your local police and keep a copy for yourself. This will make your case easier to prove to creditors and to clear your name.
The governmental agency that investigates identity theft is the Federal Trade Commission. Contact the FTC to file a complaint at 877-ID-THEFT.
Contact the three big credit agencies: TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. Ask the agencies to have your account flagged with a fraud alert. This requires merchants to seek your explicit verbal or written approval before granting any new credit in your name.
Close down all your accounts that have been used by identity thieves. Also, change all passwords and PINs for your accounts even if they were unaffected. Notify all your existing creditors and let them know of your situation.
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