In my last post, I talked about personal organization and identity theft. Now, in case that post came too late for you (or you didn’t read it!) and The Worst Has Happened, in this post, I’m going to cover what you should do when your identity has been (or you suspect it might have been) stolen. Even if you haven’t been a victim of identity theft, you might want to look through this information; it’s one of those things that’s good to know now . . . just in case.
Please note that, in the interests of presenting the basic information without being overwhelming, this information is “condensed”; it’s very basic. But it will get you started until you can calm down and have a drink and do a little more research.
1. Start a log.
The details of sorting out this problem can get out of control really quickly. Keeping a few records will save you time, headaches, and maybe money.
Keep notes on your conversations (with names, dates, and contact information) and copies of your correspondence. Keep track of the time you spend and any expenses you incur, too. You can deduct theft-related expenses from your taxes if you itemize, and you might even be able to seek compensation if you sue the thief.
2. Contact the credit bureaus to place a fraud alert and get your reports.
Here are the numbers of the consumer reporting companies; you only need to contact one of them because they’re required to contact the other two.
• Equifax: 800-525-6285 or www.equifax.com
• Experian: 888-397-3742 or www.experian.com
• TransUnion: 800-680-7289 or www.transunion.com
Note that you will need proof of identity to file a fraud alert. Also, you’re entitled to a free copy of your credit report so be sure to get it now.
3. Review your credit reports
Make sure that all your personal information is correct and that there are no fraudulent accounts or inquiries. Report any suspicious information or activity to the credit bureau that issued the credit report immediately.
4. Contact the police
File a crime report with your local police department. Provide as much evidence as you can and ask them to list all fraudulently accessed accounts that you know about on the police report. Be sure to get copies of the police report and to log the names and phone numbers of the law enforcement agents whom you speak to; you may need this information for creditors.
5. Close any accounts that have been accessed.
Contact all creditors with whom there has been fraudulent activity. Close any accounts that have been opened or used by the thief. Ask the creditors to indicate on their reports that the “account [was] closed at consumer’s request”; listing the “card lost or stolen” can reflect poorly on your credit report.
CHANGE YOUR PINs!
Those five steps are the basics, the very basics. Here are a few more details you’ll need to handle.
- Stop payment on stolen checks.
- File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
- Deal with debt collectors. Note: If you’ve kept your log and your records and you take the appropriate steps, you should not be held responsible for any debts incurred by the thief.
- Contact the local postal inspector. If someone has changed your address through the post office or has committed mail fraud, contact your local post office.
- Contact the Social Security Administration. If your Social Security number has been used to fraudulently obtain welfare or Social Security benefits, contact the SSA. (SSA Fraud Hotline at 800-269-0271.)
- Contact the U.S. State Department. If your passport was stolen or if someone may be ordering a passport in your name, you can visit the U.S. State Department’s website at www.travel.state.gov or call 877-487-2778.
- Contact your state’s department of motor vehicles. Contact your DMV if your driver’s license was stolen or is being used to facilitate fraud.
As I said, this post is the basics. There is a lot more information on identity theft and what you can and should do if you are a victim available. If you do need more information about preventing and handling identity theft, you can visit the Federal Trade Commission’s identity theft website at www.ftc.gov/idtheft and the Identify Theft Resource Center at www.idtheftcenter.org.
I’ve had a couple of friends who’ve been victims of identity theft and, by all accounts, it was a nightmare. I hope the information in this post and the last one, can help you if you need it,.