What to do if You are a Victim of Identity Theft
If you find yourself a victim of identity theft, you can take some steps to minimize the damage and protect yourself against future theft in the process. It’s important to react as soon as you discover that a theft has taken place, so that thieves don’t have more time than necessary to completely destroy your finances or cause you a lot of problems.
Investigate All Wrong Doing — You have to know the extent of the theft in order to take the appropriate actions. To begin with, you should obtain copies of your credit report to see what unauthorized accounts have been opened. You should also check your bank accounts, credit accounts and all other accounts to search for fraud activities. Once you have an idea of what’s happening, you’ll know what steps to take.
File a Police Report — A police report is probably not going to cause the police to pursue the matter, because other types of crimes are often given a higher priority. However, it is helpful to have one as you work to undo the fraud and theft. For example, your bank may readily refund any money stolen if you submit a copy of the police report that documents the crime. It’s also part of your legal documentation should you decide to pursue the matter in court.
Notify Credit Bureaus — Write a letter to all three credit bureaus stating that you are a victim of identity theft. Explain the circumstances, and relay any information you have about fraudulent accounts opened in your name. Each agency, TransUnion, Equifax and Experian have fraud departments to handle identity theft cases. You’ll probably get a fraud alert on your file to make it difficult for future accounts to be opened without your authorization.
Contact Financial Institutions — You also need to send letters to every financial institution where you have an account, and where there’s evidence of fraudulent activity. They may also have a fraud department as well to help each victim of identity theft. It’s also a good idea to place a call to those institutions where you haven’t noticed any tampering, just in case it’s next in line. You can ask them to place a hold on the account and not to authorize any transactions until you give them further notice.
Close Fraudulent and Tampered Accounts — As soon as you discover accounts that have been opened in your name by an identity thief or tampered with, your best option is to close those accounts. Go the banks and other financial institutions in person if you can, but if not, close the accounts in writing. You don’t know who has your information and how many times it may have been sold. Even if you ask for holds to be placed on the accounts, you may end up with problems in the future once you lift hose holds. Follow up by filling out the forms necessary to dispute purchases or transactions that you did not authorize.
You don’t have to remain a victim of identity theft. Take these action steps to minimize the damage done and reclaim your life.