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An ounce of precaution can keep you from becoming a victim of identity theft and fraud, but sometimes the thieves develop new methods before warnings can be issued.

If you have become a victim, it is best to act immediately to hold damage to your personal funds and financial accounts to a minimum. Below is a list of agencies that receive and process complaints of possible identity theft and fraud.

The Federal Trade Commission, under the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act, has the responsibility of providing informational material to victims and referring their complaints to appropriate agencies such as law enforcement agencies and the major credit bureau reporting companies. You may contact the Federal Trade Commission online at where you can submit an identity theft complaint form. You may also call toll-free at 1-877-ID THEFT (1-877-438-4338) or TDD at 1-202-326-2502. By mail, send to Consumer Response Center, FTC, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W., Washington, DC 20580 .

Your local office of the Postal Inspection Service should be contacted if you suspect a change-of-address form has been submitted by an ID thief or if your mail has been used to commit fraudulent acts using your identity.

If your Social Security number is being fraudulently used, contact the Social Security Administration toll-free at 1-800-269-0271.

The Internal Revenue Service should be notified at 1-800-829-0433 if you suspect wrongful use of ID information in connection with tax violations.

The three major credit reporting agencies should be contacted:

You can order a copy of your credit report from these agencies. There is a phone number listed on the credit report that you may call to dispute fraudulent activity shown on the report. These agencies also receive requests to opt out of "pre-approved" offers of credit and marketing lists which provide easy sources for ID theft through mailbox and garbage theft.

All creditors should be contacted if you discover fraudulent activity on your account statements. These include such agencies as your long-distance phone company, credit and department store cards and any other accounts where you have extended credit.

Contact all financial institutions where you have accounts where an identity thief has taken control or that have been created in your name but without your knowledge. You may need to close those accounts, stop payment on outstanding checks and change your ATM card, account and Personal Identification Number (PIN).

If you know that a merchant has received a check stolen from you, contact the verification company that the merchant uses. The following is a list of check-verifying agencies and their toll-free numbers:

  1. CheckRite – 1-800-766-2748
  2. ChexSystems – 1-800-428-9623 (closed checking accounts)
  3. CrossCheck – 1-800-552-1900
  4. Equifax – 1-800-437-5120
  5. National Processing Com. (NPC) – 1-800-526-5380
  6. SCAN – 1-800-262-7771
  7. TeleCheck – 1-800-710-9898