Measures to take Immediately if your Identity is Stolen

Identity theft is an ever-growing problem in our financially troubled society. If you believe that your identity has been stolen, here are a few things that you can do.

Keep a log of your activity, phone calls, conversations, expenses, etc., you can deduct theft-related expenses on your tax returns if you itemize deductions and you may be able to receive compensation if you find and sue the thief. You will need the documentation when you do contact your lawyer for prosecution of the guilty party.

Immediately contact all three credit bureaus to report your stolen identity, credit cards, wallet, etc., and ask them to issue a fraud alert and include a statement in your credit report. There are three agencies: Equifax, 800-525-6285, Experian, 888-397-3742 and TransUnion, 800-680-7289.

Get copies of your credit report from each organization and watch your accounts for activity that you have not initiated. Review your personal information, as well as, any suspicious activity that is listed there that you did not initiate. If there is activity, accounts that you did not open, payment that you are not delinquent on, etc., report them immediately to all three agencies and contact the appropriate agency where you found the activity and request an investigation.

Report the crime to the police. Filing a report with as much evidence as you can provide can help if you need to prosecute the thief. Creditors may want a copy of the police report and make sure that you get your own copy.

Complete an identity theft victim’s complaint and affidavit.  You can get this form from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or from their website.

Creditors sometimes accept this claim that you are not responsible for any newly opened account or transactions on an account that you did not initiate.  It will also help the creditor to investigate your claim.  The creditor may also request an additional form to be completed. 

These are also helpful if you need to request copies of the thief’s application and transaction records. Be sure to follow all instructions on the form.

Know your credit score and monitor your credit reports yourself. There are companies who will do this for you, but it’s best to take charge for your own security.  A close watch of your credit report and score can indicate whether the thief is trying to open an account in your name or get credit. 

Every time that your credit report is pulled, you credit score might be lowered.  When a thief applies for a credit card, loan, etc., each incidence or application will lower your credit score and you do not want it to fall too far. Sign up with a credit monitoring agency and keep a vigilant watch on your own score and reports.

Although there are several types of fraud alerts that can be placed on your credit report, either an Initial alert or an extended alert are the most common.

An Initial alert is helpful if your wallet was stolen or if you were the victim of a “ phis-hing” scam.This alert entitles you to one free copy of your credit report.

An Extended alert will stay on your credit report for up to seven years. Use this alert if you have been the victim of an identity thief and you can provide the company with an “identity theft report”. This alert entitles you to up to two free credit reports within twelve months.

After an Extended alert is placed on your credit reports from all three credit reporting agencies, they will remove your name from marketing lists for prescreened credit offers for up to five years unless you ask that it be put back on those lists prior to that five year period’s end. This will help to prevent anyone from opening an account or getting a credit card in your name from other companies.

These credit reporting agencies, as well as, others will help you to monitor your credit and prevent identity theft, especially while you are on line.  You can sign up with either of these credit bureaus or with a service such as Life Lock.  You can sign up for as little as $10.00 a month. Life Lock is one of the most well known companies and they can monitor your on line identity, as well.

The more you take charge of your own credit monitoring, the greater the chance that any thief can be deterred or caught and prosecuted. No one should be able to use your identity except for you.