Someone violated you in a way you never imagined. You didn’t know it was happening. You were unaware something even occurred, and you didn’t report the crime right away. In fact, you probably didn’t even know about the crime for months. Perhaps you were in the market for a new car when you were denied credit. Your score is excellent, you have no debt, and your annual income is high. There was no reason for a bank to deny you a car loan, and that’s when you take a look at your credit report.
Someone decided to steal your identity and rack of debts in your name. They’re living the life of luxury with everything they bought using your name, your credit, and your finances, and they never paid a cent of it to your creditors. Now you’re in debt, your credit score is ruined, and you have no idea what to do next. Unfortunately, recovering from identity theft is a process. “Using your name, your social, and your hard work as a personal benefit is one of the most devastating forms of violation a person can endure, but you can recover,” states attorney Gus Kostopoulos.
Contact the FTC
The Federal Trade Commission handles identity theft cases. You can contact them online or you can call to report what you know, and they will take your information and provide you with the information you need to move forward with this discovery. Don’t wait to move. You must act right away to get this ball rolling. It takes time, but your life is on hold while you wait to have this corrected.
Call the Police
Now you contact the police to file a report with them. You’ll provide all the information you have, and you’ll let them file a report. There’s not much anyone can do, but it’s helpful to have this on record with the local police department in case you ever need proof or there is some way to find the culprit.
Freeze Your Credit
Now comes the difficult part. You’re going to spend some time contacting each of the credit bureaus to freeze your credit. This helps you keep anyone else from applying for credit in your name because it means they’re immediately denied. It’s helpful to prevent the situation from becoming worse.
Order Your Credit Reports
You want to contact each of the major credit bureaus to obtain free copies of all your credit reports. Once in hand, go over them to determine which accounts are fraudulent. You need this information to carry on with the process of recovering from ID theft.
Contact All Creditors
Any creditors you did not open accounts with must be contacted immediately. There is no way to know how they will respond to you once they have your information, but you know you can handle the closure of each account since they are in your name. Talk to them, present them with evidence, and see what you can do.
Dispute Your Credit Report
If you can get fraudulent accounts closed and handled, let the credit bureaus know so they can remove those accounts. They’ll need written proof from the creditor the account is fraudulent and should be removed. If creditors won’t work with you, dispute the information with the bureaus. They have to handle your case.
They take your request to have something removed from your report to the creditor you’re disputing. The creditor has 30 days to respond. If they don’t respond, the credit bureau immediately removes the item from your report and you win. If they do respond and say no, you can provide more evidence to help your case.
Change All Your Passwords and Information
Now that someone has borrowed your credit, it tells you your personal information is not all that personal. Learn to protect your personal information by changing your passwords, asking for electronic statements rather than financial statements in the mail, and do not save any credit card or personal information online. Learn to protect yourself to prevent this from happening again.
Monitor Your Credit
Each of the major credit bureaus is required to provide you with a free copy of your report every year. Stagger them each so you can check your credit free of charge every four months. Monitoring your account helps you catch anyone who wants to use your accounts fraudulently faster and more efficiently.
This is a long process, but you can make it through. Understanding the laws and your rights regarding identity theft is the best way to handle this situation. Don’t panic, but don’t become complacent when you finish this fight. Learn to protect yourself in the future so this never happens again.