If you find yourself a victim of identity theft, you have a long road ahead of you. However, this will be a much smoother process if you prioritize and have everything organized. Federal law says the victim of banking or credit fraud is liable for only the first $50 of their losses if the victim notifies the financial institutions within two days of the loss. So, knowing where to find your important papers can help speed things along.
As you go through the process of clearing things up it is important that you follow up all calls in writing by sending a letter through certified mail with return receipt requested. Keep a log of your contacts and detailed notes; you may need them for reference later.
Contact Law Enforcement
Contact the Federal Trade Commission to file a report. Then, take the FTC report with you to your local police or sheriff’s department, depending on where the crime was committed. This report can also help if collection companies start to harass you.
Contact Credit Bureaus
Next, you need to contact the three major credit bureaus. Contact them by telephone as soon as possible (telephone numbers listed below) and send a letter to them with return receipt requested. The credit agencies can put a fraud alert on your credit report to prevent the thief from opening new accounts in your name.
P.O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92834
• Equifax :
Equifax Credit Information Services, Inc
P.O. Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374
P.O. Box 2104
Allen, TX 75013-2104
1-888-397-3742 (International callers who experience difficulties calling this number should contact their telephone service providers for assistance.)
To add alerts to your credit report using their online services, visit Experian’s fraud alert website.
You should also ask for a copy of your credit report from each of the credit agencies. When you receive your credit reports, go over each of them closely. Continue checking your reports periodically for at least one year to make sure there has not been any fraudulent activity on your accounts.
Contact Credit Card Companies
Contact every financial institution where you believe your credit may have been used fraudulently. Close your accounts and change any personal information that has been compromised. It is much easier to recover from identity theft if you start with new accounts.
These companies may include department stores, credit card companies, utilities, banks, etc. Contact them by telephone and by letter. Send certified letters to each institution to confirm your telephone conversation. If someone else is using your drivers license, you should also apply for a new license and cancel the old one.
Monitor your Mail
Monitor your credit card statements and all other bills. Be certain that there is no new fraudulent activity. If you receive a bill that has charges that do not belong to you, do not pay them. If you pay the bill, it is as if you are saying the bill is yours.
Since identity theft is a timely process, you may start hearing from collection companies. If you have written letters explaining the circumstances and they continue to harass you, inform them that they are violating the law.
Protective measures will help immensely in the future, but cannot protect you 100% since there are so many ways criminals can get access to your credit. Courts, schools, doctors, lawyers, loan officers and employers are just a few people who have your social security number. A dishonest employee with one of these people could steal your identity. Simply because it is worth repeating, remember to keep detailed information for every step you take.