You get denied for a card at your local department store because of delinquent accounts. You don’t have any accounts which are delinquent, so you check your credit report and it shows five credit card accounts that are past due. You now realize you have become a victim of identity theft. What do you do now?
After you spend a few minutes calming down from the shock that someone has committed a crime against you, you can begin to rectify the situation by immediately taking the following steps.
Call the three major credit reporting agencies and place a 90 day fraud alert. Make sure you call all three to ensure that your information is processed by all three. The phone numbers for the three credit reporting agencies are:
- TransUnion: (800) 680-7289
- Experian: (888) 397-3742
- Equifax: (800) 525-6285
When you call, you will get an automated system. You must follow the prompts to place a 90 day fraud alert. Once you have done this you will receive a letter from each of the three credit reporting agencies confirming that you have placed a 90-day fraud alert. On the back of this letter you will find instructions on how to obtain your credit report for free as a victim of identity theft. Follow these directions and obtain your credit reports. Even if you have already printed out an online credit report you will want to receive these printed reports as they will be the most current and unabridged versions.
Once you have these credit reports you can begin to assess the damage and begin rectifying your records. Immediately after you place your 90 day fraud alerts, you need to contact your local police department to file a police report for identity theft. You are the victim and therefore the jurisdiction to handle the police report would be your own. In other words, don’t worry if the cards were opened in Delaware and you live in Oregon, your local police department is still responsible for taking the police report. With a police report you are entitled to:
- A seven year fraud alert
- A credit freeze in the states that have adopted this procedure into law
- Have inaccurate or fraudulent information blocked from your credit report
- Receive a copy of all application and transaction records on accounts opened fraudulently in your name
When filing the police report be sure to order a copy, as you will need this in order to have accounts cleared from your credit reports. You will also need a completed fraud affidavit from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). This can be found on the FTC website at http://www.ftc.gov or by calling the FTC at (877) 438-4338. Once you have these two documents and have received copies of your credit reports you can begin to contact the companies where credit accounts were opened. You will need to provide them with the information that you have been a victim of identity theft and ask that they send out an identity theft package to you. This identity theft package will ask for a copy of the police report, FTC fraud affidavit and proof that you are who you say you are and that the account is fraudulent. You will return this package to the company and they will mail you a Letter of Clearance. You will mail this Letter of Clearance into the three credit reporting agencies and the accounts should be removed from your credit reports.
While the above outlined process seems simple, there are often hiccups in the process. In order to avoid potential issues you should:
- Keep notes of everyone you speak with and keep all of your paperwork together in a file.
- Mail everything certified return receipt to ensure proof of delivery.
- Stay as calm as possible. These things will take time and though you will be understandably angry, it will not help your case move any faster.
This is a very basic outline of instructions for rectifying a case of financial identity theft. Other cases may be more complicated or of a different nature.