Recovering From Identity Theft
When someone’s identity has been compromised, recovery takes more than replacing what was lost. For that reason recovering from identity theft is a process. If your identity has been used by someone without your permission, you have to act quickly and systematically in order to minimize the harm done.
Here is a general overview of the steps you should take if your identity has been stolen.
First, contact one of the major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion) and request a fraud alert on your file. The fraud alert will prevent further accounts from being opened in your name for 90 days. If you notify one of the credit bureaus, they should notify the other two.
Second, order a copy of your credit reports. Once you’ve placed a fraud alert, you’re entitled to a free copy from each bureau. Then you can review your credit reports to see exactly how you were affected by the identity theft.
Third, the FTC recommends that you file an identity theft report with them. The report can be used to help you move forward with the process including filing a police report.
Finally, you can start to address the fraudulent items on your credit report. These might be accounts opened without your knowledge or credit used without your permission. You will need to notify both the credit bureaus of the fraudulent items as well as the creditors involved. You should work with them to block the fraudulent items from appearing on your credit reports in the future and to resolve outstanding debts.
Again, recovery from identity theft is a process that takes time and effort. The FTC offers a guide to identity theft recovery with further information and detailed checklists. For more, visit their website.