How to Recover From Identity Theft
Recently, we provided some ways to protect yourself from identity thieves. Sometimes though, planning and vigilance are not enough. A determined criminal or third-party vulnerability can still put your data at risk.
No matter the reason, once you discover that a breach has occurred, it’s time to focus on limiting the damage and repairing your credit. Otherwise, you risk facing long-term problems that will be much harder to sort out in the future.
Stop the Harm
If you recognize fraudulent financial activity in your name, the first step is to contact the company where it’s taking place. Speak with the fraud department to freeze the account to prevent further charges.
You should also reach out to the three major credit bureaus—Experian, TransUnion and Equifax—to place a fraud alert on your account and request a copy of your credit report. There should not be a cost for either step.
Lastly, you should consider reporting the incident to the FTC and subsequently filing a report with your local police department. These reports will provide you with additional protection from being held liable for the fraud and may lead to the person responsible, protecting future victims.
Repair the Damage
With the immediate risk halted, you can turn your attention to reversing any damage. If you have spotted an account or loan created without your permission, you’ll want to have the account closed and review your credit report carefully for signs of other unauthorized accounts.
For your existing credit and bank accounts, review your statements to identify any suspicious transactions and notify the fraud department if they aren’t legitimate. You will likely want to request a new card or account number and reset your online passwords and associated PINs.
You should also contact the credit bureaus regarding any inaccurate information that appears on your report. Don’t rely solely on the company that handled the fraudulent account to provide the updated information on your behalf. Depending on the fraud’s extent, you may consider a seven-year extended fraud alert that will make it harder for unauthorized accounts to be opened in your name. In severe cases or those where a child’s identity has been used, a credit freeze may be the best option to eliminate access to the credit report by someone with ill intent. It will remain in place until you ask for it to be removed.
Return to Normal
In cases where the identity theft involved the loss of personal documents such as a driver’s license or social security card, you will also need to notify those offices and request a replacement.
Occasionally, identity theft is overlooked long enough for an unpaid debt to be passed on to a collection agency. Having the debt removed from your credit report may not stop ongoing calls looking to collect. Your best approach is likely a certified letter notifying them that the debt was due to fraud and providing them with the theft report and other documentation.
An aggressive approach to restoring your credit history after the fraud is critical to your future. We’ll soon share the last article in our series, explaining how identity theft can impact your plans for a mortgage and what you can do to overcome the challenges. In the meantime, visit OpenMortgage.com or call to speak with a representative to explore your mortgage options.