10 Steps To Take If You Are A Victim Of Identity Theft
Finding out you are the victim of identity theft is never easy . You will have feelings of anger and shame but the best thing to do when you find out is to start the process of cleaning up your credit. The faster you catch and dispute any errors the easier the clean up will be. With that being said, you will need to have patience as disputing a credit report entry does take time.
Below are 10 things to do when you find out you have been a victim of identity theft
1. Close out any credit or debit cards
Call all your credit card companies as well as any debit cards to report the fraudulent charges and request that they close your accounts. You can then have them open new accounts for you with new cards. The quicker you do this, the quicker you can put a stop to the theft’s spending spree.
2. Put a credit freeze or fraud alert on your credit reports
In order to safeguard your credit, put either a fraud alert or credit freeze around your credit. If you do a fraud alert you can expect it to last for 90 days and if you want to renew it, you can. You also have the option to do an extended one that lasts seven years. If you wish to do the extended one, you will need to get in touch with each of the three credit-reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax, TransUnion) and request this over the phone or do it online.
The fraud alert will require that lenders must take additional steps to help in the verification process of your identity before opening any new accounts for you. If you feel a fraud alert is not enough protection, you can also do a credit freeze. This will put your credit on lock down and no one can access it. Make sure to keep this in mind if you plan on applying for any loans or anything else where you know they will need to check your credit. If for some reason you do need to lift the credit freeze, you can. Just contact each agency and provide them with the pin code you were given when you initiated the freeze. Although a freeze on your credit is a deterrent, it does not mean someone can’t use your identity to commit fraud in other areas.
3. Contact the FTC
The (FTC) has a website dedicated to those affected by identity theft: IdentityTheft.gov. You can find helpful information as well as file a report directly with them. You can also call them at 1-877-438-4338 and whatever option you choose, make sure you give as much detail as possible in your report. This report will serve as proof to the companies you are dealing with that you were in fact the victim of identity theft.
4. File a police report
In order for your Identity Theft Report to be complete, you will need to get in contact with your local police department to report the theft. Make certain to ask for a copy of the police report as well as the report number. Your police report and your FTC Identity Theft Affidavit make up your Identity Theft Report.
5. Provide creditors with a copy of your ID theft report
Notify all creditors in writing that you are the victim of fraud and be sure to add a copy of your Identity theft report. You also want to ask each creditor to provide you and the police department with any documents that show fraudulent transactions. They may not just hand this over to you but fight for it if you need to. This info will help track down the person that stole your identity. Once you inform the creditors of the fraud, they should stop reporting it to the credit reporting agencies.
6. Dispute fraudulent accounts on your credit report
Get all three of your credit reports and go through them to see if there are any accounts you did not open. AnnualCreditReport.com allows you to access them once per year for free. If you find ones you did not open, immediately contact the credit reporting agency that shows the error. This can be a long and tedious process and enlisting a reputable credit repair company may make sense for you. You don’t want to miss any crucial steps that could set you back ten steps.
7. Change all account passwords
Go through all your accounts and change the password. Make sure to avoid using obvious things for your password. Your passwords should be a combination of upper and lower case letters along with numbers and special characters.
8. Apply for a new driver’s license
If someone is using your driver’s license as an ID, you will need to apply for a new number. Just go to your nearest Department of Motor Vehicles to get a new number and license.
9. Call your utility and telephone company
An identity thief can use your utility bill as proof of residence to open an account so get in touch with your phone and utility company to alert them.
10. Call the Social Security fraud hotline
If you think your social security number has been compromised, contact the Office of the Inspector General. Request a copy of your Personal Earnings and Benefits Statement and look it over to see if it is accurate.
Safeguarding your personal information should always be at the forefront of your mind. Identity theft is rampant and you really need to be aware of how you share your personal details. If you should fall victim to this terrible crime, the above tips will help you get your financial standing back on track.