What to do if you are a victim of identity theft?

If you suspect you’ve fallen victim to identity theft, take action immediately to minimize the disruption to your life and your credit history. Here are some steps to take:

Report the fraud right away. All lenders, banks, credit card companies and credit bureaus have phone numbers set up to handle reports of fraud and identify theft. The Principal fraud hotline is 800.642.3788. Or you can contact via website at principal.com/reportfraud.htm.

Notify the three major consumer reporting credit bureaus so that a fraud alert can be placed on your credit file. A fraud alert requires creditors to verify your identity before opening any new accounts in your name or changing existing accounts.

Request a copy of your credit report. When you place the fraud alert on your credit file, credit bureaus are required to provide a free credit report. Request one from each agency to check for any accounts that may have been opened without consent. If you find any, notify the credit bureau and the business where the account was opened. Once your dispute is resolved, the bureau will send you a new copy of your credit report for your review to ensure that your file has been corrected. Here are the victim-assistance phone numbers and Web sites for the three bureaus:

Contact your local police department to file a report. This may help convince creditors that a fraudulent account has been opened in your name.

Contact other creditors by phone. Inform them of the possibility of fraudulent activity on your account. Closely monitor all of your accounts and report any discrepancies immediately.

Close any accounts that may have been compromised. Reopen these accounts with new numbers and passwords.

File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Reach them by phone at 1.877.IDTHEFT (1.877.438.4338). The FTC handles complaints from victims of identity theft and can help by referring you to credit bureau and law enforcement agencies.

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