Identity theft is a scary thing. It happens when you least expect it and without warning. Identity theft occurs when an imposter misuses your personal identifying information to open fraudulent credit card accounts, secure deposits on cars and houses, and create insurance and tax benefits. It can devastate your credit; and the process of resolving the issue may entail hours of telephone and written communication.
If you are a victim of identity theft, there are immediate steps you can take to prevent further damage:
Place a Fraud Alert on your credit report. Contact any one of the three credit reporting agencies and request a fraud alert be placed on your credit report. Once you alert one credit-reporting agency, the other two agencies will be alerted. The initial fraud alert is free and lasts 90 days. The alert will indicate to businesses and creditors that you may be a victim of fraud and will require additional information to verify your identity before accounts can be opened in your name. This will make it more difficult for a thief to use your information fraudulently for obtaining credit or opening accounts.
Order a Free Credit Report. When you contact the credit-reporting agency, ask to receive a copy of your credit report. As a victim of identity theft, you will be entitled to one free credit report from each of the three credit reporting companies. Once you obtain your credit report, examine it for any unauthorized charges or accounts. If you find any unauthorized charges, accounts, or other errors, report them to the credit-reporting company and the fraud department of each business that reported the error.
Report the crime to police and create an Identity Theft Report. In Louisiana, you can report identity theft to your local police department. They will issue a written police report upon request. Provide them with as much information as possible regarding the theft, including copies of your credit reports showing items related to the identity theft. You should black out other items not related to the theft. Also, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and fill out an Identity Theft Affidavit. Combined with the Police Report, it will form your Identity Theft Report. This report will help you deal with credit reporting companies, debt collectors, and businesses that extended credit to, or opened new accounts in your name with the identity thief.
Keep a record of all communications. Ask businesses you contact for copies of any documents the identity thief used to open accounts or make charges in your name. Get the name of any person you talk to on the phone, and write down the date and time of all calls. Send all letters by certified mail and make copies before sending. A record such as this will come in handy when dealing with the long process of resolving identity theft.
In order to prevent identity theft from happening to you, it is important to protect your personal information. This includes your online accounts, your mail–even garbage. Identity thieves are tricky and know what to look for, so it is up to you to take the necessary steps to ensure the safety of your personal information.
Consumer Credit Reporting Companies:
Federal Trade Commission’s Identity Theft Hotline:
Written by Carmen Ryland