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Steps exist to reduce credit theft, identity theft, if only they're taken

November 23, 2010
Stories regularly recount consumers horrified about fraud committed against their names, addresses, Social Security numbers, credit cards and other sensitive information. One man said recently that, within one week of having his wallet stolen, thieves ordered an expensive portable telephone monthly package, applied for a Visa card and secured a credit line to buy a personal computer. The man even received notice at home from the department of motor vehicles about an on-line request to change his driver's information.
Damages from identity theft can be controlled. A rote instruction is to cancel all existing credit cards. A key to that, of course, is to have the toll-free numbers and all credit card account numbers handy so that the proper steps can be taken.
Experts advise victims to file a police report immediately in the jurisdiction where any theft occurred. Such action demonstrates a diligence to credit providers, and it is an important first step in an investigation, if ever there is one.
Most important: Call the three national credit reporting organizations at once to place a fraud alert on your name and Social Security number. In light of such an alert, any company that checks your credit knows your information was stolen. The company would have to contact you by telephone to obtain authorization for any new credit lines. 
The reporting agencies and their toll-free numbers are: Equifax, 800-525-6285; Experían (formerly TRW), 888-397-3742; Trans Union, 800-680-7289; Social Security Adminstration fraud line, 800-269-0271.