Identity theft has been the fastest growing crime over the past several years, and it does not show any signs of letting up. Millions of Americans are impacted by identity theft every year. Sometimes, regardless of the methods you take to prevent identity theft, thieves are still able to access your personal information and assume your identity. This guide covers what to do in the unfortunate event your identity is stolen.
There are several different ways a person may discover they have fallen victim to identity theft. The symptoms range from being turned down for credit because of a low credit score, even though you have maintained a great credit history to discovering unauthorized charges on your monthly credit card statements. The following steps cover what you should do as a consumer if you discover that your identity has been compromised.
1. Notify the credit reporting bureaus and place fraud alerts
Placing a fraud alert on your credit bureau means that your credit file will be flagged and that creditors will have to call you before approving any credit in your name. This is the best method to prevent additional accounts from being opened up in your name.
2. Obtain and monitor your credit reports
You can obtain 3 free credit reports each year (one credit report from each major credit bureau) by visiting annualcreditreport.com. This is the only place to get a "truly free" credit report. Once you have received your credit reports, examine them carefully for fraudulent accounts and inaccurate information.
Once you have noted all the discrepancies contact the credit bureaus and let them know of them so they can block the fraudulent information from appearing on future credit reports.
3. Report the crime to law enforcement
Call your local police or sheriff's department right away and let them know of the identity fraud you are experiencing. You may also need to report the crime to the police department in the location that the crime occurred as well. When speaking with the police make sure to provide as much documented evidence as possible. It is important to make sure that the police report lists all fraudulent accounts. This report is also known as an "identity theft report".
4. Take care of the new accounts that have been opened
If your credit report shows any new accounts in your name that were opened fraudulently, call those creditors immediately and contact them in writing as well. Creditors usually request that you fill out a fraud affidavit. There is a widely accepted, standardized version of the fraud affidavit form that can be found at the FTC website by visiting http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/resources/forms/affidavit.pdf. Before a creditor is able to provide you with any of the fraudulent documentation used by the thief, you will be required to provide the completed affidavit, the identity theft report and a government issued ID.
5. Handling debt collectors
Many times after identity theft has taken place, bills in your name go unpaid without your knowledge. If a debt collector calls you and attempts to get you to pay the unpaid bills on the fraudulent accounts tell them that you are a victim of fraud and are not responsible for the account. Ask for the contact information for the credit issuer they are working for so you can work with that creditor to get the fraud cleared up.
When identity theft happens, it can be a real setback as it takes many hours to resolve everything on your own. Consumers may consider signing up with an identity theft protection service to help out. Most programs have a fraud restoration benefit that can help out by completing the affidavits, contacting the authorities and even reimbursing you for out of pocket expenses related to identity restoration.
For more information on what to do if you ID was stolen please refer to Identity Crisis... What to Do If Your Identity is Stolen
We recommend following Identity Theft Solutions:
- LifeLock Identity Prevention