Identity theft is an awful experience. Like any robbery or crime, victims feel vulnerable and helpless. That’s never a good feeling, and it can be even worse with the havoc a person can raise through stealing your identity.
Identity Theft Impact
One of the key issues to deal with after you are the victim of identity theft is putting your credit back together. That can seem like an overwhelming task. However, these are the steps you can take to help make it as easy as possible during what is going to likely be a traumatic time.
Taking the steps below will help you rebuild your credit. Fraudulent activity will be removed from your report and not held against you. But it’s important to do the following.
This may seem simple, but too many people don’t take this step. Having a police report of the incident can prove crucial down the road when you are explaining to creditors, banks and other institutions what happened. Make sure the report lists every account you suspect of having fraudulent activity.
When it’s done, send a copy of the theft report to all your creditors.
Contact the Feds
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) now has a site where you can report identity theft and get a recovery plan. They also can provide a cover sheet to be used when filing a report with local police.
Notify Bank or Credit Companies
You want to shut down the accounts as quickly as possible. You would do the same if someone got your credit card number and used it to make purchases. You want banks and credit card companies to know as quickly as possible, so they can stop payment on fraudulent charges.
It’s also wise to contact one of the three major credit reporting agencies in the United States – Equifax, Experian or Transunion – so they can put a fraud alert on your account. In Canada, the two credit reporting agencies are Equifax Canada and TransUnion Canada.
Initially, the fraud alert can last for 90 days. If a police report or FTC report is made, that can get extended to as long as seven years.
Once you’ve been verified as a victim of identity theft, you should:
- Change all account passwords
- Get a new driver’s license (if thieves have stolen your driver’s license number)
- Contact phone carriers, utility companies and cable companies so that people cannot use your identity to open another account
- Contact the Social Security Administration if you have reason to believe your social security number has been stolen
While there are quite a few steps, all can be done quickly and will help you start moving past being a victim and taking an active role in rebuilding your credit and your life.