If you suspect someone has stolen your personal information, there are several things you can do to recover your identity.
Report the crime.
Immediately report the suspected identity theft to your local police or sheriff’s department, as well as the Federal Trade Commission (www.ftc.gov).
Close the accounts you believe have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.
Your creditors can include credit card companies, utilities, banks and other lenders. When you call each creditor, ask to speak to someone in the fraud department. They will gather information from you and help you with the next steps. Click here for an outline of various fraud scenarios and what to do if you fall victim to them.
Order a copy of and begin monitoring your credit report.
By law, you can get a free credit report from the three major credit bureaus, Equifax, TransUnion and Experian, once a year by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com. By monitoring your credit report, you will be able to identify any suspicious activity, such as new credit lines that have been opened without your knowledge. If you notice fraudulent or inaccurate information, get it removed or corrected. You might also want to place a fraud alert on your credit report.
Fraud alerts can help prevent an identity thief from opening any more accounts in your name. Contact the toll-free fraud number of any of the three consumer reporting companies below to place a fraud alert on your credit report. You only need to contact one of the three companies to place an alert. The company you call is required to contact the other two, which will place an alert on their versions of your report, too. If you do not receive a confirmation from a company, you should contact that company directly to place a fraud alert.
For more information about fraud alerts and how to place them on your credit report, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s Identity Theft website.
Work with the Credit Bureaus to correct your credit report.
If you find an error in your credit report, you should work with each of the credit bureaus to ensure it gets corrected. Each of the three bureaus (Equifax, TransUnion and Experian) have slightly different processes, but generally you will need to do the same thing with each of them.
First contact the bureaus online, by mail or via the telephone to register your dispute and explain your concerns. The credit bureau will then investigate the concern(s) directly with the source (creditor, collection agency or courthouse) and respond back to you within 45 days with their results of the investigation.
Contact the credit bureaus directly to dispute specific information on your credit report.
Keep good records.
Whenever dealing with authorities or financial companies, keep a log of all conversations, including dates, names, phone numbers and what was discussed. Copy all letters and documents, and send all correspondence using certified mail with return receipt requested. You might also want to track the time and money you spend because you may be able to get a portion of that back if the thief is ever caught and taken to court.
Don’t give in.
Don’t allow yourself to be coerced into paying any bill, portion of a bill or covering any checks that were fraudulently written. Do not file for bankruptcy. Your credit record should not be permanently damaged and no legal action should be taken against you as you work this out.