Last year, more than 13 million Americans fell prey to identity theft. If you find yourself in this scenario, there are some immediate identity theft steps to take so you can begin rectifying the errors. It’s important to act quickly when it comes to identity theft recovery; you can prevent further misuse of your personal details by the identity thieves if you catch the fraud early and begin the identity theft recovery process. Follow our steps to take after identity theft and start on your way to getting your life back.
Immediate Identity Theft Recovery Steps
1. Call the company (or companies) where fraud occurred. Call right away to report the fraud and freeze the associated accounts. Then change the logins and passwords for all of your accounts—not just the ones associated with the fraud.
2. Place a fraud alert with TransUnion. Call TransUnion to report the identity theft. They will report it to the other two credit bureaus (Experian and Equifax) and place a free, 90-day freeze on your credit report. Save the confirmation letter they send.
3. Get your credit report. You’re entitled to one free credit report per year from each of the three credit bureaus. If you haven’t gotten yours yet this year, request it. If you have already gotten your free report, you can pay for another. Review each transaction carefully and make a note of any activity you do not recognize.
4. Report the identity theft to the FTC. This government entity will create an Identity Theft Affidavit for you, as well as a recovery plan.
5. Report the identity theft to your local police department. Bring along your FTC-issued Identity Theft Affidavit, photo ID, proof of address (from a legitimate source, such as a utility bill or mortgage statement), and any evidence you have of the theft. Ask for a copy of the police report.
6. Remove fraudulent charges. Call up any businesses where identity thieves opened new accounts. Ask each business to send you a letter stating that the fraudulent charges do not belong to you and that you won’t be held liable for them. Ask them to remove any bogus charges and ensure that these will also be removed from your credit reports.
7. Correct your credit report. Use this sample letter to write to each of the three credit bureaus. In the letter, include a copy of your Identity Theft Report and proof of your identity. List which transactions on your credit report result from identity theft.
Other Potential Identity Theft Recovery Steps
8. If your Social Security number has been stolen: You can apply online for a free replacement card. You can also check your Social Security work history by creating an account on the SS website.
9. If debt collectors keep hounding you for a fraudulent debt: Write a letter to the debt collector explaining the identity theft; include a copy of your Identity Theft Report. Contact the business itself that is sending the debt collector. Ask them to stop reporting this debt to the credit bureaus.
10. If you suspect your government-issued ID has been stolen: ID recovery is fairly simple. Go to your local DMV branch to report your driver’s license lost or stolen. Get a replacement ID while you’re there. If your passport has gone missing, you’ll want to contact the State Department.
You may also need to place an extended fraud alert (which can last up to seven years) or credit freeze (which lasts until you remove it) if your identity recovery issues are taking longer than 90 days to resolve. You can set either of these by contacting each of the three credit bureaus.
Identity Theft Recovery Steps for Specific Circumstances
If someone has stolen your identity and opened accounts with any of the following entities, here is a recommended course of action.
Utilities: Call your utility provider and explain the fraud. Ask them to close the account.
Government Benefits: Call the relevant government agency that offers the benefit and tell them your identity has been stolen. Ask for the proper steps to follow to get your benefits reinstated.
Checking Accounts: If someone opened a checking account in your name, you can get a free copy of your ChexSystems report, which will scan for any checking accounts opened in your name. If an identity thief is writing bad checks in your name, contact your bank directly and ask them to close the account.