If someone stole your identity would you know what to do? We’ve previously posted about protecting your identity after data breaches, but there are other ways for thieves to steal your personal and financial information, both in-person and online.
Once identity thieves get your information, they can use it to make purchases, open credit cards, get a loan, steal your tax refund, open utility accounts, apply for employment, or even get medical care. Along with trying to clear up the theft, you may also experience lawsuits, harassment by debt collectors, and denial of credit/loans, public benefits, and medical care. All of which can take an emotional toll due to the stress, anxiety, embarrassment, and time and expenses spent on recovery steps.
Clearing up your identity can be difficult, but here are some steps to guide your process.
You will need to do the following right away:
- Call the companies where you know fraud has occurred – ask them to close or freeze the accounts
- Place a fraud alert with the three major credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax) and get your credit reports
- Report identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
- You may also choose to file a report with your local police department – provide documentation, including proof of address, copy of your FTC Identity Theft Report, etc.
What should you do next?
- Close new accounts opened in your name by calling the fraud department of each business and explaining that someone stole your identity
- Remove bogus charges from your accounts by calling the fraud department of each business and tell them which charges are fraudulent
- Correct your credit report by writing to the three credit bureaus and explain which information on your report is fraudulent
- TransUnion – Fraud Victim assistance Department, P.O. Box 2000, Chester, PA 19022-2000
- Equifax – P.O. Box 105069, Atlanta, GA 30348-5069
- Experian – P.O. Box 9554, Allen, TX 75013
- Consider adding an extended fraud alert or credit freeze
Depending on your situation, you might need to take additional steps:
- Report a misused Social Security number.
- Stop debt collectors from trying to collect debts you don’t owe – You must write to the debt collector within 30 days of getting the collection letter.
- Replace government-issued IDs – You can apply online to replace your social security card for free. Contact the MVA if your driver’s license is lost or stolen.
- Clear your name of criminal charges – If someone is arrested and uses your name or personal information, contact the law enforcement agency that arrested the thief. You may need to check court records to find out where the thief was arrested.
When contacting any of the companies, agencies, and other entities related to clearing up your identity, remember to document all face-to-face meetings and telephone calls by recording the organization’s name, the representative you spoke with, the date, the time, and any pertinent notes from the discussion.