In the circumstance that you become a victim of identity theft, being proactive can greatly minimize its impact on you.
By reaching out to the parties listed below you can help to prevent further fraudulent activities.
- Creditors and financial institutions. If a credit card or checking account has been used or opened illegally, immediately contact your creditor or financial institution. If the account is not yours, it should be closed. If it is yours, you should make sure you get a new account number and card. Be sure to monitor all future account statements carefully for evidence of new fraud.
- Legal and government agencies. You may want to report the identity theft to the police. If you do, request a copy of the police report in case a credit bureau or creditor asks you to provide one as part of their investigation. You can contact the US Postal Inspection Service if your mail was stolen or your address was used fraudulently. In larger cases, a complaint can also be filed with the Federal Trade Commission since they do not assist with cases on an individual basis.
- Credit reporting bureaus. Check your credit reports from all three bureaus. You are also entitled to additional free reports if you believe you are the victim of identity theft. Make sure to dispute any fraudulent items by submitting a form on-line or mailing a letter to the credit bureaus. They are required to investigate your claim and respond within 30 days (45 days if the report was obtained through the Annual Credit Report Request Service).
Even if the fraudulent information has yet to appear on your reports, be proactive and report the crime to the credit bureaus. Place a fraud alert on your credit reports if you believe you are at a high risk for identity theft. When someone applies for credit under your name, the creditor must verify that the person applying is you.
- The initial fraud alert only lasts 90 days.
- If you file a police report, you can extend the alert to seven years.
- You can also place a one-year alert on your file if you are on active duty with the military.
If you feel like a fraud alert will not provide you with enough protection, you can place a security freeze on your credit report. When a freeze is placed on your report, no creditor or other business that does not have a pre-existing relationship with you can access your report. Since most creditors will not grant credit without checking your report first, this makes it extremely difficult for a thief to get credit in your name. If you want to apply for credit yourself, rent an apartment or do anything else that requires a credit check, you can have the freeze lifted temporarily or permanently. Please note that this may slow down the application process.
Because you may be speaking with many people, it is vital to be organized.
Make sure to:
- Keep copies of all letters
- File paperwork promptly
- Store everything in a safe and accessible place
- You can use the Identity Theft Action Log to help you keep track of what you have done.