If you’ve ever had your identity stolen, you know the overwhelming feelings of frustration, fear, and stress bubble to the surface. Here are some direct actions to take immediately after your identity has been stolen in order to re-establish your credit.
1. Obtain a copy of your credit report
This will be like a road map to determine which creditors the imposters have contacted. Begin the process of contacting those creditors to alert them that the person who made contact was not you because your identity has been stolen. Be sure they know that you have been misrepresented.
● Getting a copy of your credit report annually is a good idea even if you have no reason to suspect your identity has been compromised. Check it over and be sure that no creditors listed have been contacted without your knowledge.
● You are entitled to one free credit report per year from the three major consumer reporting agencies. You can request this free report through the Annual Credit Report website or by calling 1-877-322-8228.
2. Start a file
Compile all the information pertaining to an identity theft incident(s). Keep originals and copies of all pertinent documents in this file.
● When you contact anyone regarding an identity theft incident, write down the company name, who you spoke with, the date and time, and notes covering what was said. Keep these in your file.
● In the event you have to mail one of your reports or documents, be sure to hang onto the originals. Only mail copies! Preserve the integrity of your originals in case you need them.
● You will be surprised at how often you may be asked to recall specific facts related to your identity theft case. This file will come in quite handy more than once.
3. Add a fraud alert to all your credit reports
The purpose of taking this action is to alert your creditors that someone other than yourself has been seeking and/or received credit in your name. To do this, call any of the three major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian or TransUnion) to inform them.
4. File a police report
When you contact the companies who’ve been defrauded by someone posing as you and using your name, the companies will ask for a copy of the police report. For your own record file, it would be wise to obtain and keep a several copies of the police report so when you need it, you already have it on hand.
5. Contact any companies/businesses that were defrauded
Be sure to contact all companies that may have been affected by someone using your name and close the accounts. Closing these accounts will make them off-limits for further fraud.
● Insist on using PIN-and-password to protect accounts that hold sensitive information. Avoid using only security questions with answers that are easily obtained (such as a phone number or street address).
● The Federal Trade Commission, or FTC, advises to follow up on all contacts regarding an identity theft incident in writing. They even suggest in some cases that you mail follow-up letters by certified mail with a return receipt requested that you can then add to your document file.
6. File a complaint with the FTC
The commission recommends that identity theft victims make contact on the FTC website (ftc.gov/idtheft) to file an official complaint. This way, law enforcement agencies can work in tandem to catch the fraudsters stealing multiple identities. The FTC can also then enforce laws regarding how victims are treated by the companies who were defrauded.
7. Stay on top of the situation
Be uber-vigilant about your credit accounts. Keep detailed track of all incoming bills and statements. If you believe your name or an account in your name has been misused, take action immediately by making calls, closing accounts, and doing anything necessary to protect yourself from further harm.
If someone illegally obtains your identity, take immediate action to complete the steps outlined above. Being alert and on top of things will help guard against any future attempts to misuse your identity.