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When your private financial information gets into the wrong hands, the consequences can be devastating. Yet there are many ways you can help protect yourself on a daily basis, from taking precautions while online to checking your credit report periodically.

If you should fall victim to identity theft, it is important that you act quickly. Contacting the correct agencies and filing the necessary reports will go a long way toward minimizing any damage to your financial wellbeing.

Who to Contact

Credit Bureaus: Immediately contact the fraud departments of each of the credit bureaus listed below. Alert them that you are a victim of identity theft, and request that a fraud alert be placed in your file. You can also request a security freeze, preventing credit issuers from obtaining access to your credit files without your permission. This prevents thieves from opening up new credit cards in your name.

Law Enforcement: Report identity theft to your local police department. If the crime occurred somewhere other than where you live, you may wish to report it to law enforcement there as well. The police will create an "identity theft report" and you can request a copy.

Federal Trade Commission (FTC): The FTC does not investigate identity theft cases, but they can share information that you give them, such as the identity theft report number, with investigators nationwide. For more information about fighting back against identity theft, visit the FTC's Identity Theft website.

The Federal Trade Commission's Identity Theft Hotline is 877-IDTHEFT (877-438-4338).

Credit Bureau Contact Information Equifax
Order Credit Report: 1.800.685.1111
Fraud Hotline: 1.888.766.0008
www.equifax.com

Experian
Report Order: 1.888.397.3742
Fraud Hotline: 1.888.397.3742
www.experian.com

Trans Union
Report Order: 1.877.322.8228
Fraud Hotline: 1.800.680.7289
www.tuc.com

This article is intended to provide general information and should not be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.  Visit www.practicalmoneyskills.com for more helpful tips and tools on managing your finances.

*The Visa Zero Liability policy covers U.S.–issued cards only and does not apply to ATM transactions, PIN transactions not processed by Visa, or certain commercial card transactions. Cardholder must notify issuer promptly of any unauthorized use. Consult issuer for more details.

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