Five Rules For a Successful Identity Theft Recovery
By R. Kurtz (Kurt) Holloway and Elizabeth Lester, project intern and contributing author
This is article 2 of a series of articles to help victims of identity theft. This article explains the five rules to follow throughout the recovery process we provide you in this series.
The following are some signs that might signal that you are a victim of identity theft:
- bills that do not arrive as expected;
- unexpected credit cards or account statements;
- denials of credit for no apparent reason (e.g., for credit you did not apply for);
- calls or letters about purchases you did not make;
- charges on your financial statements that you don't recognize;
- incorrect information on your credit reports - accounts or addresses you don't recognize or information that is inaccurate.
If you experience any of these situations or other suspicious activity investigate it immediately. If your investigation leads you to believe you might be a victim of identity theft, then follow the rules below.
Rule 1. Act Promptly.
Acting promptly will help you prevent and resolve problems. Gathering as much information about the theft as soon as you can will be vital to recover from the damages of identity theft.
Rule 2. Document, Document, Document.
For every action you take, it is absolutely crucial to keep careful records of all communications. This includes every communication with law enforcement, other resources and creditors. You should also document time spent and out-of-pocket expenses incurred going through this process to remedy the theft. This record of information will help to demonstrate the course of action you have taken to recover from the damage and the time log can help you receive restitution if the case is prosecuted.
Rule 3. Use Your Free Resources.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) provides consumers with a variety of resources to help you recover from identity theft. Some of these resources include guides on how to take charge of your situation. It also offers sound preventive information for you and, perhaps, your children. You can also look the websites of any of the three Credit Reporting Agencies (CRAs), Experian, Transunion, or Equifax to follow steps on how to report your theft correctly.
Rule 4. Stay alert.
Remember to continue monitoring your account activity and credit reports in order to identity any future theft that may occur. Take precautions when using your information in public. Be very skeptical of any personal, written or telephone requests for personal information. Verify the legitimacy of the request using a source other than the information given to you in the request itself.
Rule 5. Know When to Seek Legal Advice.
Many consumers are able to recover from identity theft without talking to a lawyer but not everyone. You should seek some legal assistance when:
- You become confused or simply do not have the time to obtain information, file complaints, notify the credit reporting agencies, FTC, police and creditors;
- You are met with resistance or lack of cooperation from a creditor, credit reporting agency or the police;
- Bill collectors begin to harass you;
- You are denied credit.
The next article which will address the 4 important steps to take when you first discover you are a victim of identity theft.
You will find more detailed information about resolving your identity theft situation at the FTC website, www.ftc.gov. An experienced and knowledgeable consumer law attorney can also guide you through the process, help you assert your rights and restore your financial reputation. You can contact one of us for help at 610-323-7464.