If you’ve ever had your identity stolen, you know the frustration, fear, and stress experienced after someone assumes your identity. Here are some actions to take after your identity has been stolen in order to re-establish yourself in the credit world.
1. Obtain a copy of your credit report. Doing so will aid you in determining which creditors have been contacted by the imposter rather than yourself. Once you have your credit report, you can begin the process of contacting those creditors to alert them to the fact your identity has been stolen and misrepresented at their business.
* Even if your identity hasn’t been stolen, it’s a good idea to get a copy of your credit report annually to check it over and ensure there are no creditors listed that you haven’t had contact with.
* You’re entitled to a free credit report yearly from the three major consumer reporting companies, which you can request through the Annual Credit Report website or by calling 1-877-322-8228.
2. Start a file. Compile all your information pertaining to the identity theft incident(s). Place originals and copies of all necessary documents in your file.
* When you call someone regarding your identity theft, record the company name, the name of the staff you spoke with, the date and time you spoke to them, and what was said to keep it in your file.
* In the event you have to mail someone one of the reports or documents, ensure you hang on to the original and mail copies only. Preserve originals in case you need them.
* You’ll be surprised at how often you’ll be required to recall specific facts related to your case. Your file will come in handy more than once.
3. Put a fraud alert on your credit reports. The purpose of this action is to alert all of your creditors that someone other than yourself has received credit in your name. To place a fraud alert on your credit reports, call any of the three major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian or TransUnion) to inform them.
4. File a police report. When you’re contacting the companies who’ve been defrauded by someone using your name, the companies will request either a copy of the police report or the police report’s identification number. For your records, it’s wise to obtain and keep a copy of the police report so when you need this info, you already have it in hand.
5. Contact companies/businesses defrauded in your name and close those accounts. Closing those accounts will make them off-limits for the identity thief to further access. Plus, because of your contact, those businesses will know your identity has, in fact, been stolen.
* If possible, insist on using PIN- and password-protected accounts to protect your information in the future. Avoid using security questions with answers that are easily obtained (such as your phone number or address).
* The Federal Trade Commission, or FTC, advises that you follow up on all contacts regarding your identity theft in writing. In some cases, the FTC suggests you mail your follow-up letters by certified mail with a return receipt requested for your document file.
6. File a complaint. The FTC also recommends that victims of identity theft contact the FTC website (ftc.gov/idtheft) to file a complaint. Then, law enforcement agencies can work in tandem to catch the people stealing identities. Also, the FTC can then enforce laws regarding how victims of identity theft are treated by the companies who were defrauded.
7. Stay on top of the situation. Be hyper-vigilant about your credit accounts. Keep track of all incoming billing statements. In the event you believe your name or accounts have been misused, respond immediately by making calls, closing accounts and doing whatever is necessary to protect yourself.
If someone steals your identity, take action by completing the above steps. Being knowledgeable and alert will help you guard against future attempts to misuse your identity.