What to do if you are a victim of Identity Theft

  1. Call one of the credit reporting agencies. Tell them that your identity has been stolen. Ask them to put a fraud alert on your credit report. This alter will require businesses to confirm that you are you before they extend credit to you.
  2. Obtain your free credit reports at AnnualCreditReport.com.
  3. Visit IdentityTheft.gov and report identity theft and receive a personalized recovery plan designed to address your specific identity theft issue. 

Report identity theft at IdentityTheft.gov and receive a personalized recovery plan designed to address your specific identity theft issue.

How IdentityTheft.gov works:

The law and identity theft

When an identity is stolen, the theft usually leads to the fraudulent use of personal identifying information. The use of stolen information such as name, Social Security number, and date of birth fall victim to identity theft when used to obtain electricity, gas, open a checking account, and even attain employment.

When new accounts are open, thieves usually don't stick around to see their financial obligations through. In turn, furnishers start reporting negative information to the credit reporting agencies. The new information gets assigned to a credit file that matches the name, Social Security number, and date of birth of an innocent, now victimized, consumer. The new, yet fraudulent information immediately appears on a credit report and over time will dramatically and devastatingly affect ones credit score. Once a credit score has dropped, brining it back up will prove to be an exhausting battle that requires patience and relentless determination to see a task through to the end.

A federal law, the FCRA, was created to aid consumers when it comes to removing wrong and inaccurate information from ones credit report. Including any information resulting from identity theft. Credit reporting agencies are required by law to “follow reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy of the information” contained in credit reports, and to protect consumers when inaccuracies cause injury. Injury can be caused by identity theft. When the fraudulent information merges with a consumers credit report, the consumer's credit score gets damaged and in turn the consumer may experience difficulties with getting a loan, increased interest rates on credit cards and other miscellaneous accounts. Stolen identities have even been used by thieves when dealing with police; resulting in criminal information being linked with a innocent consumer. A consumer can be damaged immensely when action is taken after relying on a background report with fraudulent criminal records on it.

Unfortunately, the burden lies heavily on the consumer when resolving such issues because those federal laws require consumers to know what is on their credit reports and to take action when inaccuracies are discovered. For this reason, it is critical that consumers take advantage of the federal law which requires the agencies, which are Equifax (including credit files owned by CSC Credit Services), Experian, and Trans Union, to provide them with one free credit report each year. (To obtain your free annual report go to the only official site:www.AnnualCreditReport.com.)

If you suspect to be a victim of identity theft, notify and dispute the information with the credit reporting agency right away. Federal law requires the credit reporting agencies to investigate your dispute. If your dispute has been ignored, you may seek legal action under the FCRA.

How to repair your credit after identity theft:

The first step in repairing your credit report after a thief stole your identity is to identify the errors on your report. Look for information, like accounts you didn’t open or debts you didn’t incur, and dispute the errors with the credit reporting agencies. Contact the fraud department of each business or furnisher that is reporting inaccurate information. Ask the furnisher and the credit reporting companies to block the disputed information from appearing on your credit report.

How to block disputed information from appearing on your credit report:

To block disputed information resulting from identity theft from appearing on your credit report, you must write to each entity involved with the reporting process. This includes the three credit reporting agencies, Equifax,Experian, and Trans Union, and the furnisher reporting the information to the credit reporting agencies. Include a copy of your Identity Theft Report (this is a combination of your identity theft affidavit plus the police report), proof of your identity (name, address, social security number), and an explanation of the disputed information resulting from identity theft. Ask the credit reporting companies to block the fraudulent information.

Credit reporting agencies must block the fraudulent information if they accept your Identity Theft Report within four (4) business days. Credit reporting agencies have five (5) days to ask you for more information. If you are asked for more information, the credit reporting agencies have an additional fifteen (15) days to work with you to get the requested information. Once the credit reporting agencies receive additional information, they have five (5) days to review the new information before they can accept or reject your request to block the fraudulent information.

If the credit reporting agency accepts your Identity Theft Report it must notify the furnisher of the fraudulent information, and the furnisher must stop reporting the information and try to collect the debt. Businesses can still try to collect the debt until the credit reporting agencies tell them to block the fraudulent information.