What is Identity Theft? How can I protect Myself from Identity Theft? What to do after your Identity has been Stolen

What to do After your Identity Has been Stolen

If you are the victim of identity theft (see What is Identity Theft?), it is important that you start to repair your credit and make sure that your credit report is an accurate reflection of your credit history and not fraudulent activity that you had nothing to do with (see How can I Repair Errors on my Credit Report?). As you are reconciling your credit report to match your credit history, there are several other steps that you will need to take to make it difficult for a thief to continue to use your identity.

First, you should place a fraud alert on your credit reports. Placing a fraud alert on your credit reports will prevent an identity thief from opening anymore accounts in your name. There are three consumer reporting agencies that maintain the information found on your credit report: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. You only need to contact one of these agencies as the agency you inform is required to report your fraud alert to the other two companies. If, however, you do not receive confirmation from each consumer reporting agency, it is important to contact each one to make sure that a fraud alert has been placed on your record. You can find contact information for each company at:

Once you have a fraud alert on your credit reports, you should close all accounts that you believe have been affected by identity theft. Any charges that were made to existing accounts or any new accounts that were opened in your name without your knowledge should be disputed. This often requires a written statement to each company for each account and fraudulent purchase. If accounts were opened in your name without your knowledge, you may request copies of the application used to open the account. Companies are required by law to provide you with applications for credit or accounts that were opened in your name. This may provide you with evidence to support your claim of identity theft if the signature on the account is not yours.

It is also advisable to file a police report at your local police office if you have been a victim of identity theft. A police report may validate your identity theft claim to financial institutions as you seek to restore your credit. If your local police will not allow you to file a police report, try contacting your county police department. If you still are denied, contact your state police. Be sure to have an identity theft complaint attached to your police report and ask for a copy of both documents. You may use these documents as you battle financial institutions and consumer reporting agencies to restore your good name.

After you have informed necessary agencies and financial institutions of your identity theft claim and closed all accounts believed to be used fraudulently, you may want to contact an attorney. Contacting an attorney who has experience helping victims of identity theft repair their credit is a good idea if consumer reporting agencies dispute your claim of identity theft or if you are being held responsible for the debt incurred under your name by someone else.

In some instances, you may need to take drastic measures to reclaim your identity such as applying for a new social security number. If you have questions about how to deal with the aftermath of bad credit due to identity theft, it is important to contact an attorney who is familiar with the identity theft laws in your state. An attorney should be able to advise you as you seek to repair your credit and even represent you in court if worst comes to worst.