For victims of identity theft, the path to reclaiming and restoring your identity can be long and difficult. If you have already found yourself a victim of identity theft, there are necessary steps to take in order to repair your credit. If you have identity theft protection already, contact your company immediately, as some of them require that you notify them within a certain time frame in order to be covered by insurance. If you don't, here are the first steps you should take to reclaim your identity.
Contact the credit bureaus and initiate a fraud alert.
A fraud alert is essentially a flag on your credit report, which notifies potential lenders that further steps need to be taken to verify the identity of the person requesting the line of credit. You only need to contact one of the three credit bureaus to do this, as they are obligated by law to inform the other two if you report an identity theft.
Fraud alerts are free if you’re a victim of identity theft. Keep in mind though that a fraud alert only warns potential lenders to confirm identification. They are not legally obligated to take additional steps, as it is left to their discretion. The other option would be to freeze your credit, which will make it so no lines of credit can be authorized. When you do wish to open a new line of credit, you will need to remove the freeze yourself, which can take up to three business days.
Know your rights.
After reporting an identity theft to a credit bureau, they will inform you of your rights, which include getting a free credit report. Make sure to ask them to show only the last four digits of your Social Security number on the report. Confirm with them that they will contact the other two bureaus on your behalf. Also, record all interactions regarding your identity theft resolution, including you who spoke to, the time of the call or sent mail correspondences, and keep all email communications in a place where you can locate them later should you need to back up any verbal communication with written verification. Any receipts or documents you receive need to be stored in a file for later reference.
Check your credit report for unauthorized or compromised accounts.
Make sure to speak to someone in the fraud department to confirm any activity on your account that was completed without your consent, and then reach out to the lenders or banks directly. Send your communications via certified mail so you can keep the receipts for your records. Again, record all communication with representatives from every lender to ensure your credit is repaired.
Create an identity theft report with the Federal Trade Commission.
Write down all relevant details of the theft and print a copy for your records. This important document is called the “identity theft affidavit.” You can find outlines for what this report should entail on the FTC’s website. Follow all instructions carefully, making sure that every point is thoroughly addressed.
Bring the identity theft affidavit to the police.
Once you’ve completed the affidavit, bring the document to the police to create a file for your identity theft. In a survey of identity theft complainants, 41% reported that they contacted law enforcement. Of those victims, 74% notified a police department, and 61% indicated that a report was taken by the police. Make sure to get a copy of the report or the report number for your records to prove that all of the necessary steps were taken to reclaim your identity.
Once you’ve taken these immediate steps to repair your identity, there may be more to do. We suggest visiting the FTC’s identity theft website for more information. Remember, you always have the option of paying an identity theft protection company to help protect against theft and fraud in the future if you choose.