What to Do When You Find Yourself a Victim of Identity Theft

Guest writer Marcia Cleighbourne lays out a step-by-step recovery process should you fall victim to identity theft.

imageBeing a victim of identity theft can be an intensely painful experience. Not only does it cost the victim financially, but they also have a lot of work to do to fix the situation.

Identities can be stolen because of bad luck, or because of carelessness. Typically when someone’s identity is stolen, the thief will open up credit cards and other accounts in their name. Even with the most careful planning, one’s identity can be stolen with ease. Here, are 5 things you need to do when you find yourself a victim of identity theft.

Credit Report

The first thing that should be done is to get a credit report. This can show the victim what damage has been done so far. They then should immediately put a fraud report on all of their credit reports. This will prevent more accounts from being opened. By calling one the credit agencies, by law are required to contact the other two. By placing an alert on one’s credit report, it becomes virtually impossible to open an account in their name.

Contact FTC

Though it is unlikely that a case will be prosecuted, the FTC should be contacted. They do pursue cases when they have the ability to do so. At the very least, by contacting the FTC, they will be able to identify trends, and possibly catch larger rings. There is a convenient online complaint form that can be used.

Closures

Now that, the updated credit report has been obtained, it is time to close accounts. This would entail calling each company individually and explaining the situation. Large credit card companies have departments for just this purpose. Fill out fraud dispute reports for the fraudulent transactions. A police report can also be filed to help the process along as well as protecting the victim. Once the issue is resolved, get confirmation in writing.

Follow-Up

After 3-6 months of fixing the situation, follow up and get a copy of all three credit reports. Sometimes they are slow to remove items, or new accounts may have appeared. If the credit agencies did their job correctly, it should be free of any fraudulent accounts. This is so crucial because a credit score can suffer tremendously when contains incorrect information. One should also leave the fraud alerts on their account open for a few more months. The inconvenience when opening an account, will be well worth it.

Prevent Again

Once an identity has been stolen, the damage has been done. It is vital to take steps to ensure this does not happen again. Make sure that all paperwork is shredded, and the computer is not vulnerable. Update all anti- virus software on the computer. In addition, passwords to bank accounts and credit card accounts should be changed. A shredder should be purchased so all sensitive information can be destroyed safely.

Identity theft is more of a pain than anything. Though, it can have serious implications if not taken care of thoroughly. It is necessary to keep notes of every phone call, and to send all mail via certified mail. There are a lot of resources online that can help anyone who has had their identity stolen. Do remember that taking a few steps to prevent identity theft will go a long way.

Marcia Cleighbourne writes about law, personal finance & more at www.dentalinsurance.net.

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