First Person: I Was a Victim of Identity Theft, and Survived

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I remember last year when I received a Visa credit card bill in the mail with my name on it and a balance of $5,000 on it. Apparently someone had obtained my personal information including my Social Security number and applied for a credit card and had been charging items to it for a few months before I figured out what was going on.

I'm guilty of not opening up all of my mail which was my first mistake which I now realize is probably why I didn't realize that someone had stolen my identity in the first place. Once I figured out that someone must have stolen my identity it took me a while to research the steps that I needed to take in order to take care of the situation. Upon researching identity theft I learned that I needed to contact a consumer reporting company to place a fraud alert on my credit report, close the fraudulent accounts, file a police report, file a complaint with the FTC, and finally work towards making sure that I would be protected in the future.

There are three consumer reporting companies that I had to choose from and because I already had experience with Experian I decided to go through them. I first did some research on their website http://www.experian.com/ and then gave them a call at their toll free telephone number 1-888-Experian and talked with a very helpful representative. I placed a fraud alert with the Experian representative and from was then able to order a free copy of my credit report. I knew that there was no time to waste while waiting for my free report so from there I immediately called Visa and closed the fraudulent account.

Calling the credit card company to close the fraudulent account actually wasn't quite as bad as I had anticipated. I wondered how I could possibly prove that it wasn't me who had made the charges. Visa froze the account and started their own investigation. This took about a month for them to figure out that it was indeed fraud and that the account could be closed. That was a huge relief for me because I certainly did not have $5,000 to pay the card off with. I received the credit report within a few weeks of ordering it and after carefully examined it found that I luckily had no other fraudulent accounts open in my name. From there I filed a police report.

The police report wasn't as important in my case because the creditor didn't ask to include it in the investigation. I still filed the report though just to cover all of my bases. It was a quick an easy call and I made sure to request a report for my records.

Through my research it was advised that I file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission but I actually had skipped this step because I had too many things going on in my life at the time. It probably would be a good idea in general to file and complaint with the FTC just to help the system of identity theft improve. From there the last step that I took was to come up with a plan on how to protect myself in the future.

There is always a chance that I could become a victim of identity theft again in the future so I have stayed on top of monitoring my credit reports. I also know to check all of my mail now and to keep a look out for any weird mail or bills for an account that I don't know about. I'm not sure how the thief got my information to steal my identity but I have made sure to be more careful with who I share my personal information with. It was a stressful situation but with the proper research and taking the proper steps and precautions I made it out of the identity theft situation smarter and more aware.

*Note: This was written by a Yahoo! contributor. Do you have a personal finance story that you'd like to share? Sign up with the Yahoo! Contributor Network to start publishing your own finance articles.

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