The First 4 Steps To Recover From Identity Theft
By R. Kurtz (Kurt) Holloway and Elizabeth P. Lester, project intern and contributing author
This is article 3 of a series of articles to help victims of identity theft. This article explains the 4 immediate steps you need to take if you are a victim of identity theft in order to set the foundation for a full recovery. All of the articles in the Victim’s Guide can be found here.
Step 1. Place a fraud alert.
Place a fraud alert on your credit report. This will minimize the danger of any new accounts being opened with the stolen information and will involve the credit reporting agencies (CRAs) in the process of remedying the situation with you. The way to place an alert is by contacting one of the three CRAs: Experian, Transunion, and Equifax. The one you contact must alert the other two to the fraud involving your credit. This alert will last on your reports for 90 days.
Step 2. Obtain a free credit report.
Once you have placed an alert on your reports, you should be contacted by the three CRAs and given the option of accessing a free credit report. A credit report is documentation from the CRAs with relevant information about your eligibility for credit, insurance, employment etc. This information includes things such as: your credit-standing, credit-capacity, characteristics, and financial reputation. It is important to make sure that you are clear that the credit report you request is associated with the fraud alert and not your free annual report. Once this report has been obtained, review the report for any fraudulent or mistaken accounts, activity, or debts.
Step 3. Contact relevant creditors.
While a fraud alert will protect you from any false accounts being opened within the 90 day limit of your fraud alert, it is also necessary to immediately notify the fraud department (not customer service) of any creditors or other third parties affected by your identity theft. A careful review of your credit report will show which organizations to contact to close a fraudulent credit account and remove any erroneous charges. If you are become aware of fraudulent activity, then an Identity Theft Affidavit should be filed to prove that you are not responsible for the fraudulent account. This affidavit will be discussed in the next article.
Step 4. Make a Plan .
While you are taking the first 3 steps, you need to begin making a plan to prevent further damage and resolve the problems which have occurred. All of the articles in this identity theft guide for victims will help you make your plan. Following your plan will help you successfully recover from identity theft. Be sure your plan lists the 5 Rules contained in the preceding article.
The next article will address the big 3 documents to generate and file in order to gain help from the Federal Trade Commission, law enforcement officials and the credit reporting agencies.
You will find more detailed information about resolving your identity theft situation at the FTC website, www.ftc.gov. One of our consumer protection law attorneys can also guide you through the process, help you assert your rights and restore your financial reputation. Contact us for help at 610-323-7464.