You just found out someone stole your identity.
What do you do?
Everyone needs to know the right answer.
If you are unsure, please do not stop reading until you finish this post!
I’m an Identity Theft Victim … What Do I Do?
If you are certain that you were the victim of identity theft, then there are a few different factors that come into play. The most crucial variable is your FTC affidavit and police report. Moving forward, you will need these pieces in order to fix your credit report and restore your identity.
You must also take numerous steps to ensure your identity restoration process will be simple.
Here are the initial steps you must take…
How Do You Report Identity Theft?
You can break down the reporting process into four important steps.
1) Contact the businesses containing fraudulent accounts.
Make a list of the companies you are aware of that have files in your name, which were created out of fraudulence. Then, reach out to each and let them know what happened. This is necessary for mitigating the damage and further relieving yourself of blame. All compromised accounts should get closed right away. Any that are unharmed will soon get protected by the fraud alert that you will place on your file.
2) Place a fraud alert on your credit report.
Get in touch with the credit report bureaus to let them know that you have been victimized. They will place a fraud alert on your credit report. Suspected cases of identity theft are managed with a renewable 90-day fraud alert. Actual cases, complete with police reports and other documentation will trigger an extended 7-year fraud alert.
3) Report to the FTC and obtain your ‘Identity Theft Affidavit’
A fast identity theft recovery involves making an effort to rule yourself out as the culprit. The biggest way this is done is by filling out the FTC’s form for identity theft victims. This form is necessary for creating the police report at your local police station. It is also needed for the purpose of correcting your credit report.
4) File a report at your local police department.
Next, you must head to your city’s police station and file an identity theft crime report. To do this, you must supply a copy of the FTC affidavit, as well as a piece of government-issued photo ID, a document verifying your address, and any extra evidence of the crime. Your local police department will also need to receive a memo from the FTC, which will explain how they must handle the report.
Am I Liable for Financial Losses Caused by Identity Theft?
You can find a lot of information relating to your financial liabilities as an identity theft victim here. This resource outlines what you can expect to face for an out-of-pocket loss based on your circumstances.
Here are some interesting numbers to consider:
- Financial liability on credit card fraud is always $50,
- The cap for bank card fraud is $50 within two business days,
- You can pay up to $500 on bank card fraud within 60 calendar days of the statement, and,
- Failing to report within 60 calendar days of the statement could make you 100% liable.
Also, unauthorized charges against your bank account work different than your bank card. You will not be held liable if only your bank account number gets charged. But, there is a time limit of 60 calendar days after the statement that contains the fraudulent charge.
What If You Only “Think” You’re a Victim?
There are many circumstances where you could believe you are an identity theft victim, but you are not certain. This is because you could find signs that someone defrauded your name, yet you might not have proof.
First, don’t panic!
There are two things you can do:
- Contact the credit bureaus. Pick up the phone and give a quick call to Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Explain that you are worried someone might have stolen your identity. Tell them any of the reasons why you have come to that assumption. They will be able to examine your file and see if there are any worries. If so, they will explain what you can do next. This could include placing a fraud alert or security freeze on your file.
- Get a copy of your credit report. Now it’s time for you to see what’s actually going on under your name. Request a copy of your credit report and look for any entries that were not administered by you. This could include anything from medical bills to business loans. If an error or fraudulent entry is on your file, again, you could put a fraud alert or security freeze on your file.
Suppose nothing suspicious shows up on your credit report, what do you do next?
Again, don’t give up…there’s a good chance you have a suspicion for a valid reason. If your personal identifying information got into the wrong hands, you should always have concerns. It’s easy enough to settle these worries, though, as you can still place a fraud alert on your account. The amount of time it will last for non-victims is much shorter, just 90 days, but you can renew it as much as you would like.
How Do I Set Up a Fraud Alert?
It’s as simple as contacting one of the credit report bureaus.
Once informed, that bureau will notify the others of your fraud alert request.
Place a fraud alert at:
Keep in mind, applying to post a fraud alert on your credit report over the Internet involves entering your Social Security Number online. There are no security issues with the forms at each of the bureau’s websites. The main concern would be potential compromise from outside variables, such as a virus on your computer. That said, you can always send your request by mail or you could fax it.
Of course, finding evidence that you were victimized means you must take a different approach.
Identity Recovery: What’s Next?
Once you deal with the credit bureaus, everyone you owe, the FTC, and the police, you might feel the need to let out a deep breathe. But, the battle is not over yet and it could haunt you for many years. That’s why you need to continue fixing the issue, even after the initial four steps are done.
What does that involve?
Essential Steps You Must Take to Restore Your Identity
First, you must make sure to close all fraudulent accounts. You just have to send a letter (example) explaining what happened. You can also contact them over the phone to give an initial explanation. But, having a physical copy is always best for documentation purposes.
Next, you must request deletion of unauthorized charges that show up on your credit report. You must contact the fraud department of each company that posted an unauthorized transaction on your credit report. Inform them that you were the victim of identity theft, and that you never authorized the charges.
Then, request a confirmation letter stating that the charges were fraudulent and removed. This confirmation letter back from the credit report bureau is saved in case any new transactions show up from the same fraudulent account or company.
Now, you need to take a few more steps to clean up your credit report. This is where you prepare your detailed letter (example) and send it to Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. This letter will contain address and identity proofs, your Social Security Number, and a copy of your Identity Theft Report. As a side note, the term ‘Identity Theft Report’ is used to define the pairing of your FTC Identity Theft Affidavit and your police report.
Last, you should consider extending your fraud alert or taking another approach to secure your credit file. Instead of limiting yourself to the 90-day fraud alert, you should always opt for the extended 7-year alert. This is because identity theft victims can get targeted more than once, and time serves as no barrier. If you want to put an end to lenders accessing your report for an indefinite period, switching to a credit freeze would accomplish that.
Now you can take a deep breathe!
What Else You Might Need to Do:
- Contact the IRS to resolve tax-related fraud (affidavit)
- Request a new Social Security Number (here)
- Get a report from ChexSystems to check for fraudulent checking accounts (here)
- Send letter to debt collectors about fraudulent debts (example)
- Replace your driver’s license, passport and other government-issued IDs
- Find out if your child’s name or Social Security Number was also defrauded.
- Resolve criminal identity theft with evidence, an impersonation report, etc.
- Let affected companies know about fraudulent utilities registered in your name.
Having the right information is essential and you only have one shot at fixing your identity the right way. Each of the resources below are great places to go to get a better understanding on what you need to to do recover from identity theft.
- IdentityTheft.gov – find out what you need to do, and how to do it; get examples of forms and letters, and even learn how to respond to a data breach notice.
- FTC.gov – get links to resources and an accurate answer for just about any question pertaining to identity theft.
- SSA.gov – learn all about your Social Security Number and how it relates to identity theft, as well as the circumstances that justify having your number changed.
- ConsumerDebit.com – while the whole website has helpful information, this particular page contains the contact details for each of the three credit report bureaus.
- PrivacyRights.org – take an in-depth look at everything relating to recovering from identity theft, with specific details for handling each type of situation.