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Personal Finance: How to clean up ID theft mess

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Police unveiled one of the largest identity-theft scandals in New York last week, with authorities arresting 111 suspects tied to a global crime ring based largely in Queens. Using stolen credit- card data, the thieves rang up millions of dollars’ worth of luxury merchandise and services all over the world.

For the unfortunate victims of this crime — or any ID theft scandal — they will need to clean up the mess on their own. Here’s some immediate advice:

Place a fraud alert
Contact one of the three major credit-reporting agencies — TransUnion, Equifax and Experian — to place a fraud alert on your file, which should prevent more false accounts from being opened in your name. Here’s their contact info:

TransUnion
1-800-680-7289
www.transunion.com

Equifax
1-800-525-6285
www.equifax.com

Experian
1-888-397-3742
www.experian.com

Review your credit reports
When you place a fraud alert on your credit file, you’re able to receive a free copy of your credit report — one from each of the three agencies. Check your reports for any incorrect information.

Close bogus accounts
Dispute credit cards or bank accounts that were illegally opened in your name by notifying both the credit-reporting agency that lists the false information and the fraud department at the related bank or creditor. Banks and creditors should issue you fresh cards with new account numbers.


Farnoosh Torabi is a personal finance expert, TV personality and the best-selling author of “Psych Yourself Rich.” Follow her at www.farnoosh.tv and at twitter.com/Farnoosh.

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