In my recent post What You Need to Know About Identity Theft I’ve discussed the types of identity theft, the maximum liability in case of identity theft and various identity theft scams.
While it is useful to have that information, most of us think we will never have to deal with identity theft. I certainly hope this is the case for all of you but in the event of identity theft this article will go over what to do if you are a victim of identity theft.
How to Detect Identity Theft
If you are a victim of identity theft it is crucial that you take action right away. The sooner you act, the more likely it is you will contain the damage and be able to save time, money and frustration.
It is important to be able to recognize the below major signs of identity theft:
Unauthorized purchases and accounts – probably the most obvious. Look out for unauthorized accounts, charges, transactions.
Missing mail – make sure you keep track of all monthly statements, bills and anything else containing your personal information that you usually receive in the mail. Watch for missing: credit card bills, bank statements, boxes of new checks, tax forms, tax refund checks, social security checks and statements.
Lost belongings – if your wallet containing credit cards, IDs etc. is ever stolen it is best to assume that your identity is at risk and take actions.
Collection calls – you know if you start receiving calls from collection agencies or worse, the IRS, about debts you have not incurred, that someone has assumed your identity.
How Can You Repair Your Credit AFTER Identity Theft
There is life after identity theft!
Here is what you can do to help repair your credit after you have become victim of identity theft.
Write to the credit bureaus – Send a letter to each of the three credit reporting agencies. This letter is often referred to as Identity Theft Report. It needs to include:
- Clear statement that you’re a victim of identity theft and that you are writing to request that all fraudulent information be removed from your report.
- Reference to any calls made to place a fraud alert on your file
- Specific details about what needs to be removed. A copy of your credit report could be useful.
- Copies of any police reports filed and/or any additional documents which can support your case.
Send your letter by Certified mail Return Receipts Requested. The addresses of the fraud divisions for the three credit reporting agencies are:
PO Box 740256
Atlanta, GA 30374
PO Box 9556
Allen, TX 9556
PO Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92834
According to Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), the credit bureaus are obligated by law to do the following:
Block all allegedly fraudulent information from appearing on your credit report.
Investigate the fraudulent information you have reported. They must inform the companies that originally reported the information that you are disputing the charges. Those companies in turn must investigate the charges and report their findings to the credit reporting agencies.
More Steps to Help You Recover from Identity Theft
Unfortunately, the process of repairing your identity can be a lengthy one, so here are some additional steps to take in order to reclaim your credit and identity.
As soon as you realize you have become a victim of identity theft you should:
- File a police report
- Put a fraud alert on your credit report
- Notify all accounts of possible fraud and identity theft
- Close or at least put a freeze on all compromised accounts
- Consider changing the username and password
- Follow the quoted steps outlined on the FTC website at http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2002/02/idtheft.shtm
If you find that you’re a victim of ID theft, the FTC urges you to:
- Contact the fraud departments of each of the three major credit bureaus and report the theft. Ask that a “fraud alert” be placed on your file and that no new credit be granted without your approval.
- Equifax: 1.800.525.6285
- Experian: 1.888.397.3742
- Trans Union: 1.800.680.7289
- For any accounts that have been fraudulently accessed or opened, contact the security department of the appropriate creditor or financial institution. Close these accounts. Put passwords (not your mother’s maiden name or Social Security number) on any new accounts you open.
- File a report with local police or the police where the identity theft took place. Get the report number or a copy of the report in case the bank, credit card company or others need proof of the crime later.
- Call the ID Theft Clearinghouse toll-free at 1.877.ID.THEFT (1.877.438.4338) to report the theft. Counselors will take your complaint and advise you on how to deal with the credit-related problems that could result from ID theft. The Identity Theft Hotline and the ID Theft Website (www.ftc.gov/idtheft) give you one place to report the theft to the federal government and receive helpful information.
Were you ever a victim of identity theft? Did you ever have to go through any of the above steps? Do you have other tips on what to do if you are a victim of identity theft.
Share with us your experiences below.