We never expect it to happen to us. After all, most of us don’t know the first thing about identity theft until it does happen to us. The most important thing to remember about identity theft is that it’s important to quickly take charge of the situation. Of course, that’s easier said than done. So to be proactive, here’s how!
When someone steals your information, such as your bank account information or a credit card number, and uses it without your permission, this is called identity theft. Thieves can use your information to open utility accounts, get medical treatment, go on a shopping spree, and much more. Whether your wallet is stolen or you just suddenly notice unusual transactions on your accounts, chances are your identity has been compromised. The first thing to do if you find your identity has been stolen is to file a fraud alert with ONE of the three major credit reporting companies: TransUnion, Experian, and EquiFax. When you have this alert on your account, businesses are required to contact you before opening any new accounts in your name. The company you file this claim with must let the other credit reporting companies know. The initial alert will remain on your credit report for 90 days and you’re entitled to one free copy of your credit report from all three major credit reporting bureaus.
Next, create an Identity Theft Report. This report helps you work with credit reporting companies, debt collectors, and even businesses that opened an account in your name. This report can help you:
- Have fraudulent information removed from your report
- Stop a company from collecting debt as a result of identity theft
- Stop a company from selling that debt to another collector
Creating an Identity Theft Report takes a little time, but it is proven to be a very worthwhile tool. You should submit a claim to the FTC in writing and print yourself a copy of your claim. File a police report about the identity theft and remember to obtain a copy of the police report or write down the report number. From there, you’ll need to attach the FTC Identity Theft Affidavit (a copy of the one you printed) to the police report you filed in order to create your Identity Theft Report.
Next, consider freezing or cancelling your credit cards as well as any debit cards linked to your bank account. Once you’ve done this, order and review your credit report for any signs of fraudulent activity. Keep in mind that different credit reports may contain different information, so it’s important to get copies of all three major credit reports. If you notice something strange on your credit report, call the company right away and explain your situation.
Identity theft is a very real problem. While you can help prevent it from happening to you, it’s also important to be prepared in case identity thieves strike. By following the above tips, you should be able to start down the right path for resolving identity theft. Contact your local government office for more tips on how to battle identity theft.