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So, your identity was stolen. Now what?

For Ann Goheen, having her identity stolen was hard. But trying to figure out what to do next was just as difficult.

The nurse is one of an estimated 16 million Americans who fall victim to identity theft every year. Experts suggest that victims move quickly to repair the damage but most, like Goheen, don't know where to start.

"Once victims get over the shock, they should get busy," Ken Abbe of the Federal Trade Commission told CBS News' Julie Watts. "The longer that you wait the more damage can be done."


It's a new tool from the federal government that provides a step-by-step plan for combating identity theft. The first step is calling the companies where the fraud occurred. After that, you should place a fraud alert on your credit report, create an identity theft affidavit and then file a police report.

"You get specific federal rights under these laws if you follow the right steps," Abbe said.

Among those rights is that you won't be held responsible for any charges made in your name. Credit reporting agencies must also remove fraudulent information from your credit report.

But even with the new tool, rebuilding your credit takes time - and a lot of patience. Just ask Goheen.

She had to go through reams of paperwork related to the theft. "These are all the fraudulent charges," she said.

Thieves used her credit to buy not one, but two cars.

"Hopefully we'll be able to clean this up," she said. "But I know it's going to take a long time."

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