Minimizing the Damage of Identity Theft
If you are a victim of identity theft, understand that minimizing damage will take patience and a systematic approach. However, the sooner you deal with the problem, the faster you will see results.
To start with, commit yourself to being organized. Since you will be communicating with a lot of people and organizations, you will need to keep detailed records of all letters and other correspondence and store everything in a safe and accessible place.
Additional steps to take to minimize risk include contacting:
Credit Reporting Bureaus
- Obtain copies of your credit report from the three major credit bureaus through www.annualcreditreport.com. If you are married, your spouse should also check his or her report.
- Even if fraudulent activity has not appeared on your credit report, be proactive and report the crime now. Contact any one of the three credit bureaus (Experian – 888.524.3606, Equifax - 888.766.0008 or TransUnion – 800.680.7289) to place a fraud alert on your credit report. The bureau you contact will notify the other two, who will then place alerts on their reports as well.
- File a victim’s report – a brief statement describing the details of the crime- and send it to all three bureaus to be added to your report.
- Check your credit report for accuracy every three months for a year, then at least annually after that.
Legal and Government Agencies
- Report the crime to your local police department and file a report. Request a copy of the report and keep the phone number of your investigator handy. If you report fraudulent activity to creditors, they will request your case number and possibly a copy of the police report.
- Notify your local postal inspector if someone else has used your address.
- If your Social Security number has been fraudulently used, alert the Social Security Administration.
Creditors and Financial Institutions
- When you view your credit report, if accounts have been used or opened illegally, contact your creditors immediately. Ask to complete a fraudulent activity affidavit.
- If a collection agency attempts to collect on a fraudulent account, explain (in writing) that you are a victim of identity theft and are not responsible for the debt. Ask the organization to confirm in writing that you do not owe the balance and that the account has been closed.
- For checking account fraud, contact your financial institution to place stop payments on any outstanding checks that you did not write. Monitor future statements carefully for evidence of new fraud.
For more information on what to do if you are a victim of identity theft, visit the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s website at www.ftc.gov/.