Identity theft sucks. Trust me, I’ve dealt with it firsthand! I personally caught someone trying to initiate a balance transfer of over $3,000 onto one of my credit cards before it cleared. I’m so glad I did, but even if I didn’t catch it right away I wouldn’t have been held responsible for it. However, it is a very disturbing feeling to realize someone has stolen your identity.
So what do you do if someone steals your identity? Follow these tips to help you get control of your identity again.
Pull A Credit Report
The first thing you need to do is assess the damage that has already been done. In order to figure out what the thief has done with your credit, you should pull your credit report from each of the three credit bureaus, Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. You can do this for free once a year from AnnualCreditReport.com.
Once you pull your credit reports, review them carefully to see if the identity thief has opened any new lines of credit in your name. Look for anything you don’t recognize opening. If you’re unsure, call the phone number listed for the creditor and start asking questions about the loan. It could be something you opened, but it lists their legal name rather than the name they do business as with the public.
Put A Fraud Alert On Your Credit File
After you have identified that you have indeed had your identity stolen, the next step is to put a 90 day fraud alert on your credit file. This is super easy to do and once you do so with one bureau, they’re supposed to put a fraud alert on your file with the other two bureaus as well.
When you place a fraud alert on your credit report, companies will now be even more careful when you’re applying for new credit. You’ll have to provide additional information verifying you are who you say you are which may include sending a copy of your driver’s license that a fraudster wouldn’t have.
If you’re like me, you’ll want to make sure all three bureaus end up with the fraud alert so I contacted all three anyway. It can’t hurt to be super cautious after having your identity stolen. To put a fraud alert on your credit file, go to the following websites for each bureau listed below:
It is important to note that placing a fraud alert is 100% free. However, the credit bureaus will likely try to up sell you with credit protection services. I personally would turn these down as I feel they don’t provide much value, but if you’re looking to buy one of these services they might be worth looking into for some peace of mind.
Consider Freezing Your Credit
If you don’t feel comfortable with just a fraud alert, you can take things one step further and freeze your credit. When you freeze your credit, you will not be able to open any new lines of credit at all unless you unfreeze your credit before you apply for the new credit.
This step is a bit more drastic because it may cost money to freeze your report and may cost money to unfreeze your report depending on what state you live in. Learn more at the following sites about credit freezes:
File A Police Report
The last step I’d personally take, other than clearing up all of the fraudulent activity, is to file a police report. Many police forces won’t take much action with identity theft victims, especially small cases, but if there is a identity theft ring taking place locally, it may get more attention.
Filing a report with your local police will keep you options open should there be a break in the case, so it never hurts to file a report. A police officer came to my house to take down my information and it only took a few minutes.
Clearing Up Your Credit
Clearing up your actual credit with the companies and credit reports with the credit bureaus will take a bit of work. You’ll have to contact each bureau and ask them to remove fraudulent items from your credit reports. You’ll also have to contact the creditors. It can be a lengthy process and to learn more about it, read more here.