One unfortunate reality of our digital society is that no one is safe from identity theft. Your vital stats are out there, just waiting to be mined by an identity predator. The faster you catch it, though, the better off you will be. One key way to find out if you are a victim is to check your credit report on a regular basis. Do I sound like a broken record yet? If credit card accounts have been opened or loans have been taken out in your name, they will appear on your credit reports, and the sooner you see it, the better.
You Caught the Fraud, Now What?
The first thing you need to do is prevent the thief from opening any more accounts in your name and stop the credit reporting agencies (CRA) from releasing your credit report to anyone until you get it fixed. To do this, take the following steps:
- Place an initial fraud alert on your credit report. Simply call any one of the three CRAs—Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion—and ask for an initial fraud alert. The company you call must inform the other two CRAs of the alert. The alert will remain for 90 days and can be renewed after that. With a fraud alert on your reports, a creditor or lender will be required to confirm your identity before issuing credit.
- Freeze your credit reports. Ordinarily, CRAs will send credit reports to almost anyone who asks, but when you place a security freeze on your account, they will have to check with you first. There may be a fee for this, depending on the situation.
You can knock these two things off your to-do list in less than half an hour after you discover the fraud on your report. However, your identity is still stolen and you’ll need to take further action to actually stop the thief.
- Contact the creditors and lenders directly. Call the companies that are fraudulently on your credit report due to the theft. Ask them for a dispute form for victims of identity theft and make a request—in writing—that they remove the accounts from your credit reports. Make every request and every follow-up in writing and keep copies of everything.
- File a police report. Identity theft is a crime and should be reported to the police. Although local police are rarely successful at tracking down identity thieves—if they are even willing to try—having a police report on file can help you remove the fraudulent information from your credit report.
- Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC has a new reporting system for identity theft. Here, you can make an official report, which can help you get negative information removed from your credit reports, and receive a recovery plan.
When You Need a Credit Protection Lawyer
If you are having trouble getting mistaken or fraudulent information removed from your credit reports—no matter how it got there—you may be able to take legal action. Contact me online or call me directly at 855.982.2400 today. If I can help—I will!