Identity thieves can quickly empty your savings and destroy your credit before you even realize something is wrong. If you become a victim of identity theft, you aren’t completely helpless and there are still things you can do to fight back. If you become the victim of identity theft, it is important to act as quickly as possible to minimize the damage to your identity and reduce or even eliminate any financial liability that may result.
Immediate steps you need to take
1. Place an initial fraud alert.
When you first discover that your identity has been stolen, you must contact one of the three credit reporting companies to place a fraud alert on your credit report. You only have to do this once as the company you contact is required to notify the other companies. The three major national credit bureaus are:
- Equifax, 1-800-685-1111
Fraud Hotline: 1-888-766-0008
- Experian, 1-888-397-3742
Fraud Hotline: 1-888-397-3742
- TransUnion, 1-800-916-8800
Fraud Hotline: 1-800-680-7289
Placing a fraud alert on your account will make it more difficult for the identity thief to open new accounts in your name. It will also help shield you from any financial responsibility from any fraudulent accounts that have been set up in your name.
2. Order copies of your credit report.
After you have placed the initial fraud alert on your account, go ahead and order copies of your credit report. These reports will show any accounts that have been set up in your name and will show how much you owe on these accounts, giving you a place to start. Using these reports, you can begin to contact these companies and close out these accounts that have been set up without your knowledge.
3. Create an Identity Theft Report and talk to the police.
Contact the FTC and create an Identity Theft Report online. Complete the report with the most detail you can and print copies of the report. This printed copy will become what is known as an Identity Theft Affidavit. Take this affidavit to the police and file a police report about the theft of your identity. You can then use these reports when you contact companies that have fraudulent accounts in your name.
Track your progress
Unfortunately, resolving identity theft takes time so you must be prepared for the long haul. You will spend a great deal of time writing letters and making phone calls to companies that are trying to collect on these fraudulent debts.
Create a system and keep a detailed paper trail on every phone call and letter documenting who you talked to and the details surrounding the call. Send all your letters certified and ask for a return receipt to verify the companies have received the letters. If you are asked to send more documentation, only send out copies of the documents. Keep all the originals safely in a file.
Make timelines regarding when you want to resolve each account and record exactly when you need to submit requests and follow-ups. The key is to be as detailed as possible in order to ensure that each problem account is resolved without damaging your credit or holding you financially liable.
You are not alone
Identity theft has become a growing problem as more and more companies become victims of hacking and more and more of your personal information is easily obtainable online. Of course, it can happen in other ways as well, such as a lost or stolen wallet or even from carelessly discarded bills in your garbage. However it happened, it is important to remember that you are not alone as many others are going through the same trouble you are right now.
If you have the misfortune of becoming a victim of identity theft, you must act quickly to minimize the damage to your credit. If you take the right steps, you can put a stop to the identity theft before it gets worse and begin to get your credit and life back on track, free from the stress and worry that comes with identity theft.