Time is of the essence when your identity is stolen. Handling the snags caused by ID theft can take a year or more, but if you take these three essential steps quickly then you will generally find the road to be a lot smoother.
Shut the Thieves Down
Begin by placing a fraud alert on your credit report. Be sure to contact all 3 major credit bureaus. You’ll have two choices. An initial alert expires after 90 days. If you want an extended alert, which stays on your report for seven years, you will have to take some extra steps. In either case, the alert gives creditors a responsibility to take extra steps for verifying the identity of anybody who tries to open an account in your name. Note that this means you won’t be able to open those accounts without going through the verification process yourself.
You can reach Equifax at 1-800-525-6285, Experian at 1-888-EXPERIAN, and TransUnion at 1-800-680-7289.
Create an ID Theft Report
Report the identity theft to law enforcement right away. Many creditors will hold you responsible for the bills if you don’t have any sort of police report to show them. In addition, this is the first step to creating an extended alert on your credit report, something you might well wish to have in place for the future. The police report number is one of the first things many dispute forms will ask for.
If you want the extended alert you’ll have to fulfill the requirements credit reporting agencies have for creating an ID theft report. Each agency is a little different, so make sure you stay alert and follow each company’s procedures to the letter.
Close Fraudulent Accounts
Get a copy of your credit report and find all of the fraudulent accounts that have been opened in your name. Close any bank accounts that you think have been tampered with and dispute any transactions that you know are false. You will likely have to call up each company and do some paperwork for them, and if you fail to turn in that paperwork in a timely manner you’ll end up responsible for the bills.
If you’re not sure about an account, go ahead and close it anyway. Better to open a brand new set of accounts then to find the thief is still actively using something you overlooked.