Recovering from Identity Theft

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For many people, rather than wondering if your identity will be stolen, it’s more realistic to consider when it will be. According to a 2019 Identity Fraud Study conducted by the research and advisory firm Javelin, 14.4 million Americans were victimized in this fashion in 2018.  This crime includes actions such as using someone else’s personal information to open new financial accounts, file tax returns or make fraudulent medical claims.

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Recovering from identity theft can be a laborious process. However, the sooner you start working on it, the less severe the consequences will be.

Here’s what you need to do.

Issue Notifications to Creditors

If you discover your personally identifiable information has been compromised, your first step should be to notify all of your creditors, as well as the companies with which you’ve discovered the fraud occurred. Inform them your identity was stolen, request your accounts be frozen until further notice and change all of your passwords and personal identification numbers.

File an FTC Report

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) compiles data on identity theft cases. While the organization lacks the authority to press charges, its database helps law enforcement officials track down criminals on your behalf. The FTC can also help you enact a recovery plan tailored to your specific situation.

Consumers can file reports online at IdentityTheft.gov, or by phone at 877-438-4338.

The organization has boilerplate forms you can submit to the various law enforcement agencies that might come into play in your case. It will also provide you with a report number you can use to validate your claims with creditors and credit reporting agencies.

Notify Your Local Police Department

Your local PD will benefit from any information you can provide if the perpetrator is located in your municipal area. When they take the report, ask for the number they’ll use to identify it.

Close Fraudulent Accounts

With an FTC Identity Theft Report on file, you can call the associated creditors and ask to have the fraudulent accounts opened in your name closed. You can also ask to be held harmless for any charges incurred by the fraudster.

After reporting the incident, ask the representative to provide a letter confirming their acknowledgement of the fraudulent activity. You’ll also want them to state in writing you won’t be held responsible for it and that all activities surrounding the incident were either removed from your credit report — or will be.

Make a note of the name and/or identification numbers of the people with whom you speak in case you need to revisit this — which is very likely.

Correct Your Credit Report

Send a letter to each of the three credit reporting agencies — Experian, Equifax and Transunion — outlining the case and requesting all references to the fraudulent accounts be removed from your record.

You’ll be asked to provide a copy of the report you filed with the FTC, as well as the one you submitted to your local police department.

Implement an Extended Fraud Alert

Once filed with the credit reporting agencies, this extended fraud alerts will grant you free access to your credit reports while steps are being taken to verify your identity. They are free to place and remove — when you can prove your identity has been stolen. You’ll need to do this with each of the three major credit reporting agencies.

Other Considerations

Caught in time, it’s likely you won’t be held liable for charges you can prove you didn’t make. However, if it takes years to discover the fraud and the charges get commingled with obligations you did incur, getting them dismissed can be difficult.

If this has happened and your ability to repay your debts is compromised, a debt relief program might be of assistance. Just be careful to align yourself with a reputable agency. Information like Freedom Debt Relief reviews can help ensure you know what to expect from the settlement process based on other people’s experiences.

The key to recovering from identity theft is to catch it as early as possible and pursue correction aggressively. This is one of the reasons it’s critical to review your credit reports on a regular basis. You can get a copy of each of the three of them for free every year at AnnualCreditReport.com.

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Summary
Title
Recovering from Identity Theft
Description
For many people, rather than wondering if your identity will be stolen, it’s more realistic to consider when it will be.

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