You go to get a loan on a new car and find that you have a low credit score. This doesn’t make sense so you obtain a copy of your credit report and find out that you have been a victim of identity theft. The person (or persons) who took your identity have opened, and maxed out, several charge cards in your name. What on earth can you do? Hopefully, this article will answer exactly that.
The first thing that you should know is the quicker you act, the better off you will be. You should get on the phone or the computer and start taking care of this as soon as you find out about it.
The first call you should make is one to notify the credit bureaus of the fraud. This will prevent any new accounts from being opened in your name by associating a fraud alert with your name. There are several agencies that can place a fraud alert via either telephone or the Internet. Three of these agencies are Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Once you have placed a fraud alert, you will be notified by phone anytime someone tries to open an account in your name. You can extend a fraud alert for up to seven years, so even if the creep isn’t caught, he won’t be using your name again for a long time.
The second call you should make is to your local police. Call the police department and explain that you want to report an identity theft. You will probably be asked to go to the police station to file the report. Take with you every bit of evidence you can find. One thing that you want to take is a copy of your credit report. If you don’t already have one, the credit bureau that you contacted will offer you a free one, and you can usually just download it using an electronic signature. Once you have filed a police report, get a copy of it. You will need a copy of this report to show credit card companies and banks.
The third call should be to the Federal Trade Commission. This is the government agency associated with a nationwide fight against identity theft. The information you can provide them will help them to prevent fraud in the future. When you contact the FTC, they will want to know the number of your police report so make sure you have it handy. They will then make an official report and give you an FTC affidavit, which you will then need to show to the different agencies that have been involved in your fraud case.
Once you have made these three phone calls you should begin damage control on the accounts that the thief has already used. For example, you need to get a hold of all the credit card companies where fraudulent accounts have been opened. You should contact each company by mail and by phone. If debts have already gone to collection, you will need to handle the debt collectors. Each collection agency is likely to handle their fraud cases in a slightly different way. Find out exactly what the collection agencies need (e.g. police report FTC affidavit) and get them the information as quickly as possible. Have them confirm that the debt case has been closed.
Good luck. Identity theft is a horrible crime and it is not easy to recover financially. Take heart though; you will eventually recover, and there are plenty of new laws in place to protect victims from long-term repercussions associated with identity theft.