Identity theft can happen in any households With the economy in turmoil, crime is expected to rise steadily, meaning even more families might soon be fighting the severe consequences of identity theft. Fighting identity theft is by no means a simple process and it can create lasting feelings of anxiety and insecurity as well as have a substantial impact on your financial records.
To fight fake identity theft, you’ll need to take the lead, active position. You are fighting to regain your own security, and identity, after all.
Document All Contacts and Actions You Take
Once you find out that you have been a victim of identity fraud, you not only need to take action you need to document it along the way. Keep a running list of dates, contacts and actions you took along with copies of everything you send to anyone. Make sure to send mail certified with a return receipt so you and they have copies that what you sent was received. If a creditor calls you because a past due bill don’t just get annoyed, get their name and find out as much as you can about it. You are the lead detective in your case. No one will care as much as you do. Get the information and write it down.
Place a Fraud Alert with the Credit Bureaus
You can call any of the three Credit Reporting Companies and they are required to pass the request on to the other two. Putting a fraud alert on your credit report can help thieves from opening up any additional accounts in your name. The initial request is good for 90 days but can be extended if need be. After initiating the fraud alert all three companies will verify your rquest within 15 days by mail. If you do not receive a verification in the mail, contact that company directly.
• TransUnion: 1-800-916-8800 – www.transunion.com
• Equifax: 1-800-685-1111 – www.equifax.com
• Experian: 1-888-397-3742 – www.experian.com
Request Your Credit Report from all Three Agencies
When placing the Fraud Alert on your credit report you can also request a copy of your credit report from each agency. Look the report over closely for accounts or addresses not familiar to you.
Assess the Damage
Your next step will be to go through your credit reports with a fine tooth comb looking for new accounts or charges. It’s very possible that you’ve been a victim for months without being aware of it. Look through your credit reports from all three agencies to determine if any new accounts have been opened in your name.
You should also carefully look through the credit card statements for the accounts you already have open. The clever thief will charge only small amounts on accounts to avoid detection, so look carefully for charges, however small, that you didn’t authorize or make.
Check your bank records as well to determine if the thief gained access to your bank accounts and withdrew funds, especially through your debit card.
Fill Out an FTC – ID Theft Affidavit
The FTC’s ID Theft Affidavit will help you prove to companies and creditors that you were a victim of a crime and not responsible for the debt. It was developed by credit grantors and consumer advocate groups, many companies will require a copy of this report. You can find it at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/resources/forms/affidavit.pdf
File a Police Report
Again it’s important to create a trail of proof to help you in dealing with creditors that may or may not understand you have been a victim just as much as they have. Make sure to get a copy of the report or at minimum the case number. Having a police report you can fax to them will help prove your case, rather then just have them take your word for it.
Notify Credit Card Companies
If you have a lost or stolen wallet or you discover charges on a particular credit card, you should contact the companies affected. If you were diligent about prevention you already have a list of all your credit card companies and their toll free numbers. Now is the time to call them to limit the potential damage and clean up. Let them know you suspect fraud.
Notify All Other Card Issuers
Again if this was a wallet or a purse, you have more than just your major credit cards. You may also have department store cards, costco cards, id cards, medical insurance cards, gas cards, etc. Call them all and explain the situation and request that replacements be issued or new accounts created. Most companies are all too familiar with identity theft and will guide you according to their policies.
Change Online Passwords
If you suspect your online identity may be involved, change your passwords on all accounts. Even if you don’t suspect online fraud, now is a good time to change them anyway.
Freeze or Close any Accounts you thing have been affected or Opened in Your Name
Call each creditor or company that you believe have been affected and freeze or close the account all together. Make sure to get the name of the person you spoke with and a confirmation number if possible. Follow up with a certified letter with a return receipt so you have proof of the closure request.
Contact the Social Security Administration
If you believe your social security number has been use is is a good idea to contact the Social Security Administration. Obtain a copy of your statement. Finally, in the most severe cases of identity theft, you might never be able to fully stop the fraud. If your identity has been stolen and is still in use, you can have your social security number changed by the Social Security Administration. This process is understandably complex, however, but will give you absolute protection against the criminal activities using your old number.
File a Complaint with the FTC
Make sure to take the time to file a complaint at the FTC online at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov The FTC shares critical information with othr agencies that can help law enforcement combat the criminals.
Monitor Your Credit Report
Make sure companies are not placing negative information on your credit report. If you believe there is information being placed on your credit report that is false or wrongly stated, contact the credit reporting agency and follow the steps to have that information removed or blocked
Begin Cleaning Up
Once you know exactly where the illegal activities took place, contact the interested parties to make them aware of the fraudulent charges or activity. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the banks and credit card companies are responsible for clearing your name on your credit report, but that doesn’t always happen without prompting.
You should not be liable for any fraudulent charges and while things are being sorted out, you’re also protected from collection calls on accounts opened in your name. In some cases, you might consider hiring a lawyer and involving the local law enforcement to help determine your best recourse as you work to put the incident behind you.
Preventing Future Fraud
After going through such a tedious and anxiety-ridden process to clear your good name and remove any taint from your credit records and accounts, you’ll want to be sure that this never happens again. The best way to do this is to work with vigilance. You may also want to consider a credit protection program that can help you keep tabs on your information online and actively seek out the many possible ways you can be scammed or victimized again. See the Identity Theft Protection Page
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