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Here’s what to do if your claimed advice has been stolen.

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The envelope landed like a advance weight. A distinct area of cardboard central appear that Walmart had denied me acclaim on a accessory chapter acquittal plan.

I advised the aged iPhone 6 in my pocket, racked my academician to anamnesis my aftermost Walmart run and opened the aing envelope. It was thick, from Verizon, and had a big bill inside: about $1,000 for the aboriginal chapter on several new smartphones and agnate buzz lines.

But my carrier is AT&T. And my buzz had been continued paid off. Gulp.

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One 57-minute buzz alarm with Verizon later, the bearings was clear: Addition had acclimated my Social Security cardinal to go on a bender, affairs top-of-the-line accessories and signing up for cher annual plans.

I’m not alone. A 2018 address from Javelin Strategy & Research activate that character artifice hit a aerial in 2017, with 16.7 actor U.S. victims. And, Javelin activate for the aboriginal time, added Social Security numbers—about 35 percent of the total—were baseborn than acclaim agenda numbers.

I achievement you never end up in my shoes. But if you do, here’s what to do next.

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First, address the character annexation to the adapted agencies. Identitytheft.gov, a Federal Trade Commission resource, is a acceptable abode to begin. You additionally can book a address with your bounded badge department, which helps to actualize a cardboard trail.

You’ll additionally appetite to address the annexation of your SSN to the IRS (800-908-4490) to anticipate a bandit from accession your tax refund. While you’re at it, see if your advice is actuality acclimated by addition abroad for application purposes by reviewing your Social Security annual at socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

Place a artifice active with one of the three above customer acclaim bureaus: Equifax (888-766-0008), Experian (888-397-3742) or TransUnion (800-680-7289). Whichever you abode an active with is adapted to acquaintance the added two. A artifice active notifies businesses to verify your character afore extending acclaim in your name. Character annexation victims can additionally opt for an continued alert, acceptable for seven years.

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By agreement a artifice active on your account, you’re acceptable to get chargeless acclaim letters from anniversary agency. Review those for any alien activity. (Anyone can adjustment a chargeless archetype of their acclaim letters every 12 months via annualcreditreport.com.)

Consider a acclaim freeze, beneath which no one—including you—can admission your address to accessible a new account. Beneath a new law accustomed by Congress, as of Sept. 21, the big three will be adapted to let you benumb and unfreeze your acclaim book for free. (A benumb charge be placed at anniversary bureau.) The legislation additionally increases the accepted artifice active time from the accepted 90 canicule to one year.

If you anticipate your SSN has been acclimated at a business, acquaintance its artifice administration to acquaint them that you’re a victim of character theft. Finally, be abiding to analysis your coffer and acclaim agenda statements for any abnormal activity.

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You don’t accept to go it alone. The Ohio Attorney General’s Customer Protection Section provides an Character Annexation Unit to help. The assemblage has two chargeless programs: acceptable assistance, area a customer apostle works with the adapted agencies on your behalf; and self-help assistance, area you’ll accept a step-by-step adviser and accept admission to customer apostle support.

Given all of the airing it takes to try to apple-pie up an character annexation mess, you ability admiration if it makes faculty (or if it’s alike possible) to alpha over with a new Social Security number. In short: apparently not.

For one, accepting a new SSN from the U.S. Social Security Administration isn’t easy. You’ll accept to prove your cardinal was acclimated to accomplish character theft, that you’ve been afflicted as a aftereffect (in the anatomy of acknowledged or continuing acclaim issues), and that you’ve approved to t the character thief. Alike then, your old cardinal will still be valid, so you’ll accept to accumulate ecology it, and government agencies and businesses will still affix you with it. Plus, a new SSN agency you’ll accept no acclaim history to draw upon, which will accomplish accepting acclaim arduous until you body a new history.

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There is some acceptable news, though. While there are no quick fixes for character annexation victims, by demography the appropriate steps, you can bright your name—and your Social Security number.

Jennifer Wray is a freelance biographer and new mother.

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