When identity thieves steal your identity, getting it back takes an enormous effort. But you can take steps to limit damage and make it easier to restore your good name.
Start by filing an online police report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Also, request your credit reports and review them closely for unauthorized activity.
Contact the Credit Bureaus
Once you’ve filed your police report, contact each credit bureau to dispute any information in your file that may result from fraud. Ask for forms to request information on fraudulent accounts the thief opened (credit card companies, utilities, and cell phone service providers, for example). The FTC has a great template you can use here.
To get identity theft help from future thefts, consider requesting a security freeze with each credit reporting agency. A security freeze stops creditors from extending new credit or services in your name without your consent by blocking access to your credit file.
Also, change the passwords, PINs, and login information on any accounts that were or could have been affected by your identity theft. This includes your email accounts. Changing these is the best way to protect your identity from future thieves. It is also possible in some places to get a court order identifying you as an identity theft victim.
Contact the Lenders
Receiving calls on your phone from debt collectors seeking to collect on accounts that were started fraudulently in your name can be annoying. When that occurs, it may be crucial to contact the relevant companies to inform them that you have been the victim of identity theft and to request that they freeze or shut any accounts the fraudster may have exploited. If the thief is using your information to conduct crimes, this can also assist law enforcement in identifying them.
When you contact the creditor, ask to be transferred to someone in charge of fraud resolution. Then explain what happened, and send a copy of your police report or FTC Identity Theft Affidavit to the creditor. Follow up with a letter summarizing your conversation and any action taken, and send it by certified mail to ensure you have proof that you sent the document. This can be helpful when disputing the debt with a collection agency in the future.
Read also: 10 Facts on Personal Belongings Coverage
Contact the Police
Once you’ve contacted the police, they will typically open an investigation into the crime and work with credit reporting agencies and financial institutions to gather information. You may also want to consider seeking assistance from a legal professional or consumer protection agency.
You should also contact creditors for any accounts the identity thief opened or used (such as credit card companies, utilities, and department stores) and ask them to close these fraudulent accounts. Write a letter to each company with a copy of the FTC’s Identity Theft Affidavit and your official police report number.
The FTC’s recovery plan will provide pre-filled form letters for creditors, debt collectors, and banks. It will also help you keep track of the status of your identity theft case as you progress with your recovery efforts.
Contact the FTC
Although not every identity theft case requires a police report, reporting to the FTC is wise for victims. The agency maintains a national database that lawmakers, consumer protection offices, and law enforcement can use to identify trends in identity theft crimes. It also provides victims with a useful ID Theft Affidavit that can help them confirm their situation to creditors, debt collectors, and others who may ask for proof of fraud.
The agency can help you file a complaint by phone, email, or online and may provide forms you can use to request account information from credit grantors, utilities, and cell phone service providers. It can also help you place a fraud alert with the three major credit bureaus, which will further limit the damage done by identity thieves still opening accounts in your name. The agency can also help you freeze your credit, preventing new requests for your credit report from coming in.