Identity theft: What to do if you're a victim

If you're hoping to avoid financial fraud, you can shred your documents, sign up for monitoring services and carefully review all your bills for errors.

But no matter how diligent you are, you may still be victimized.

"Data breach notifications are flying around like the pollen of summer," said Adam Levin, co-founder of website Credit.com. "This the new normal."

Levin offers several tips for limiting the damage if you're a victim.

First, notify your bank or credit issuer of any fraudulent transactions and make sure the account is closed immediately. The same goes for any medical institution and insurer if you discover you're a victim of medical ID theft and the Internal Revenue Service if you know your Social Security number was compromised.

Also be prepared to dispute any fraudulent debts, and any other discrepancies that could arise from someone else pretending to be you.

Second, if the theft goes beyond credit cards, you need to create an identity theft report. Go to the Federal Trade Commission site and file a complaint and print out an identity theft affidavit. You can take the affidavit to the police and use it to submit a police report.

You should contact the three major credit reporting agencies -- Trans Union, Experian and Equifax -- if you think a thief has opened up fraudulent credit cards or other accounts in your name.

To save on all the legwork involved in filing reports and calling agencies, see if you're eligible for a damage control program where a professional either guides you through the process, or handles it for you. There is a decent chance your insurance agent, bank or credit union, credit card issuer, or even your company may offer such a service.

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