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Victim of ID Theft? Take These 5 Steps

Do you know what to do if you become a victim of identity (ID) theft?
In our last post on this topic, we learned that millions of individuals are victims of ID theft every year. We also learned that you cannot prevent ID theft but can take steps to minimize your risk.
In this final four part lesson on ID theft, we will discuss the steps you can take if you become a victim of ID theft.

Common Indicators That You Are a Victim of ID Theft

There are certain signs that will let you know that your identity has been compromised including:

  • Your credit applications are being denied
  • You receive delinquent notices and/or phone calls from unknown creditors for debts you did not sign up for
  • You receive a credit or charge card in the mail you did not apply for
  • Noticeable and/or sudden decrease in credit score
  • Unrecognizable charges on your bank and/or credit card statements
  • Funds in your account balance has been deplete
5 Steps You Must Take If You Are Victim of ID Theft

1. Immediately contact your credit card companies and financial institution. If your credit, charge, and/or debit/ATM cards have been stolen, misplaced or used fraudulently, report to each creditor by phone and in writing.
Request that your current cards and financial accounts be closed immediately. Each creditor will then reissue new cards with new account numbers.

  • You can find the phone number of each creditor on the back of your cards or statements. You can also log on to your account online to find that information, usually by clicking on the ‘contact’ link or tab
  • When speaking to each creditor, ask them for the correct mailing address to send your report.
  • Once you receive new cards, add very secure passwords for all of them. We discussed in our last post how to create secure passwords.

2. Notify the credit bureaus. Report the theft to the fraud department of each of the 3 main credit reporting bureaus.

  • Transunion: 888-909-8872, https://fraud.transunion.com
  • Equifax: 866-349-5191, www.equifax.com 
  • Experian: 888-397-3742, www.experian.com

Go on each credit bureaus’ website to learn how to place a fraud alert on your credit report.

3. Contact your local police or sheriff department. File an identity theft report with your local police or in the locality where the crime occurred.

  • Provide as much information as possible
  • The police report must list all the fraudulent accounts. So make sure you review your credit reports carefully
  • Make sure you get a copy of the report for your records in case you need to show it to financial institutions and other agencies to confirm the crime

4. Report ID theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).  Go to the FTC website, www.ftc.gov and click on the ‘report identity theft’ link to file a report. Include the police report number if you have one.

You can also go directly to the FTC’s identity theft recovery website at, https://www.identitytheft.gov . There you will receive guidance on how to recover your identity. They also have support specialists available via phone and online chat.

Note: The FTC does not investigate ID theft cases but they share the information with investigators fighting ID theft nationwide.

5. Effectively respond to debt collectors of fraudulent accounts.  If debt collectors are trying to get you to pay on the fraudulent accounts, do the following:

  • Get the name of the collection company, the name of the representative contacting you, the address and phone number
  • Let the collector know that you are not responsible for the fraudulent account because you are a victim of ID theft
  • Send them a written copy of the FTC affidavit/report you submitted
  • Include a letter with the report asking the debt collector to confirm in writing that you are not obligated for the debt and that the account has been closed.

Note: Some debt collectors may ask for additional information such as a police report to confirm your situation. Respond quickly.

Tip: When sending communication by snail mail, pay for signature confirmation and tracking to ensure your information was received. This is not the time to be cheap.

Ok, that wraps up our lesson on ID theft.

Let me know if you have questions!

Dr. Linda