007 – What to do if you are the victim of Identity Theft?
Typically, you find out that your identity has been stolen when it is too late. You’re walking back from the mailbox when you open up that credit card bill that you didn’t know you had and realize someone has gone shopping…on some really nice stuff, and they want you to pay for it. What do you do when you realize your identity has been stolen? Check out this three step process:
Ask 1 of the 3 credit reporting companies to put a fraud alert on your credit report. That will result in the agency you chose alerting the other 2 companies. An initial fraud alert can make it harder for an identity thief to open more accounts in your name. The alert lasts 90 days but it can be renewed.
Now that you’ve placed an initial fraud alert, you’re entitled to a free credit report from each of the three credit reporting companies. The credit reporting company that you call will explain your rights and how you can get a free copy of your credit report. Order the report and ask the company to show only the last four digits of your Social Security number on your report.
If you know which of your accounts have been tampered with, contact the related businesses. Talk to someone in the fraud department, and follow up in writing. Send your letters by certified mail; ask for a return receipt. That creates a record of your communications.
When you review the credit reports, you may find unauthorized charges or accounts. You will need to dispute those charges and records on your account that you did not create.
Head on over to the FTC website linked in today’s show notes to file an Identity Theft Report. An Identity Theft Report will help you deal with credit reporting companies, debt collectors, and businesses that gave the identity thief credit or opened new accounts in your name. You can use the Report to:
- get fraudulent information removed from your credit report
- stop a company from collecting debts that result from identity theft, or from selling the debt to another company for collection
- place an extended fraud alert on your credit report
- get information from companies about accounts the identity thief opened or misused
How to Create an Identity Theft Report
- Submit a report about the theft to the FTC. When you finish writing all the details, print a copy of the report. It will be called an Identity Theft Affidavit.
- Bring your FTC Identity Theft Affidavit when you file a police report.
- File a police report about the identity theft, and get a copy of the police report or the report number. Your FTC Identity Theft Affidavit and your police report make an Identity Theft Report.
Some companies want more information than the Identity Theft Report includes, or want different information. The information you need to provide depends on the policies of the credit reporting company and the business that sent the information about you to the credit reporting company. These steps should help stop the immediate damage of identity theft.
Keep a record. Because recovering from identity theft can be a long and complicated process, it’s important to keep a record of all communications. Send all letters by certified mail and keep copies. If you think your case might lead to a lawsuit, keep track of how much time you spend dealing with the problem, the mileage you drive to and from the police department, the time you spend on the telephone with the credit reporting agencies, the postage for mailing documents related to the claim, and any actual financial loss you suffer.
Be vigilant. Identity thieves are tricky and can find your personal information in multiple ways. If you receive a credit card offer in the mail, be sure you securely shred and destroy the entire package. Make sure that while using the internet for shopping or communicating that you protect your user id’s and passwords.
Final Thoughts: having your identity stolen is a huge hassle. The work to create your Identity Theft Affidavit, obtain a police report, attend any hearings if your thief is caught, and just keeping up with your credit reports on a regular basis can be exhausting. But if you don’t properly go through the steps you could be left with a liability for a debt that you did not incur.