How To Report Personal Identity Theft If You’re A Victim
Even the most cautious consumers can find themselves the victims of personal identity theft. If identify theft has happened to you, the most important thing to do is to act fast. The faster that you identify and report the fraud, the faster you can resolve the situation and get you credit profile back on track. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has put together a list of important steps to take for victims of identity theft. Here are the key steps that the FTC stresses you need to take to report identity theft.
Put A Fraud Alert On All Three Of Your Credit Reports
The first and most important step is to place a fraud alert on all three of your credit reports. A fraud alert will make it more difficult for the identity thief to open up any new accounts under your name because a business will have to verify your identity before opening any account. Therefore, if the thief tries to open a new account, you might get contacted by the business. Make sure that your contact information at the three credit agencies is up to date so you don’t miss an important phone call.
To put a fraud alert on your reports, you only need to call one of the three credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Ask whichever company you call to put an initial fraud alert on your credit report. The company will then alert the other two companies. The alert will stay in place for 90 days and you can renew it after three months.
You can also put an extended fraud alert on your credit report. It is free and it lasts for seven years.
Think About Getting A Credit Freeze
A credit freeze is a credit alert on steroids. Putting a credit freeze on your credit report means that businesses cannot access your credit report. This makes it extremely difficult for a thief to open up a new fraudulent account.
To get a credit freeze, you will need to contact all three credit agencies. Unlike fraud alerts, credit freezes are not necessarily free. Whether or not you are charged for a credit freeze will depend on what state you live in. If you do have to pay, a credit freeze should run you about $10. Your state will also determine how long the freeze lasts.
Go Over Your Credit Reports With A Fine Toothed Comb
If you put a credit alert or credit freeze on your credit reports, you will be entitled to order a free copy of your credit report from all three agencies. Get a free copy from all three agencies and scan it closely. Here you want to look for accounts that you did not open or other unusual activity. Check for new credit card accounts opened, new utility accounts opened and new loans taken out. If you see anything suspicious, contact the three credit agencies and the business that reported the fraudulent transaction.
Check Your Credit, Debit And Bank Account Records For Unusual Activity
Take a close look at all of your bank and credit card accounts. Look for charges and withdrawals that you did not make. If anything looks suspicious, contact your bank or credit card company immediately.
Close Accounts That Have Or May Have Been Affected
If you figure out which accounts have been tampered with, call those businesses and ask to speak with someone in the fraud department. You should be able to close the fraudulent account and open a new safe account if necessary. Make sure to document all correspondence with the businesses that you speak with.
Create An Identity Theft Report
An identity theft report will help you to:
- Remove fraudulent information from your credit report
- Stop a company from trying to collect money from you
- Get more information from companies about your affected accounts
To create an identity theft report, you will need to get an identity theft affidavit from the FTC and you will have to file a police report. The combination of these two documents creates the identity theft report. The credit reporting agencies may ask for this before they remove the fraudulent information from your account.
Keep Good Records
The FTC stresses that keeping records of all of your transactions pertaining to reporting the identity theft is key to successfully resolving the issue. Specifically, the FTC recommends:
- Keeping A Phone Call Log: Write down the name, number and date for all phone calls. It’s also a good idea to have your questions written down ahead of the phone calls so you don’t forget anything. Write down the answers to your questions.
- Create An Efficient Filing System: Keep the original documents (such as credit reports and account statements) in a safe place. Make copies that you can send out to the credit agencies and banks.
- Use Certified Mail: If you are mailing documents out, send them by certified mail and ask for a return receipt. Remember never to send originals.
If you are the victim of identity theft, don’t take it lying down. Being proactive will allow you to put an immediate stop to the fraud and restore the accuracy of your credit report.