If you’re worried that someone is using your personal information to get credit, goods, or services under your name then you should read this blog and learn about what recovery steps you should take to determine if you’re the victim of identity theft.
1. Review Your Consumer Credit Reports
You can find out the extent of your identity theft by downloading copies of your credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies—TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. Consumers are entitled to a free credit report every year from each agency from the website AnnualCreditReport.com.
To stop unauthorized use of your accounts, you’ll need to contact each credit reporting agency and ask for a “credit freeze.” Once you get the reports, you’ll want to review them for inaccurate information. If you see any strange activity or personal information that you don’t recognize, make a note of it. Here are examples of the type of incorrect information you’ll be looking for when you believe that someone has stolen your identity:
- credit accounts that you didn’t open,
- addresses that you’ve never lived at,
- employers that you don’t recognize, and
- an incorrect Social Security number.
If you find that one of your credit reports has this kind of information, file a dispute with the agency that produced the report. Include a copy of your FTC Identity Theft Report (see below) and proof of your identity, such as your name, address, and Social Security number. If you don’t have an FTC Identity Theft Report, you’re still able to dispute information in your credit report, but the process will likely take longer, and the credit bureaus might not remove the information.
2. Protect Your Accounts
If you’ve determined that you’re the victim of identity theft (or you think you might soon be), you should cut off an identity thief’s access to your credit lines and other financial information. To stop a thief from opening new accounts in your name, contact each credit reporting agency and ask for a “credit freeze.” A credit freeze stops potential creditors from looking at your credit history, which prevents an identity thief from getting credit in your name. Under federal law, placing and lifting a credit freeze is now free.
If the perpetrator compromises your bank account, you’ll want to close it as soon as possible and open a new one. Federal law limits the amount of money you can lose through the unauthorized use of your bank accounts, credit cards, or debit cards, but you must report the problem promptly to take advantage of the protection.
3. Set up and Use an Identity Theft Report
The principal tool you have for combating identity theft is an Identity Theft Report. You’ll start by reporting the theft at Identitytheft.gov. IdentityTheft.gov is the federal government’s main resource for identity theft victims.
Go t o this website to:
- get a personal recovery plan
- obtain sample letters to send to your creditors, and
- get your Identity Theft Report.
You can then use the Identity Theft Report to prove to creditors and businesses that you’re the victim of identity theft. The government’s website also provides valuable information about what to do after your identity is stolen, other possible steps you should take, and specific instructions for certain accounts such as utilities, phones, government benefits, checking accounts, and other accounts.
You can also get additional information about dealing with identity theft at the FTC’s Identity Theft website.
4. File a Police Report
Often, you can use your Identity Theft Report rather than a police report to clear up credit issues resulting from identity theft. But, sometimes, it might be useful to also have a police report. For example, you’ll want to file a police report if you know who stole your identity (or have other information that might lead the police to the thief); the identity thief used your name in a traffic stop or other police interaction; or if a creditor, debt collector, or other party affected by the identity theft insists that you provide a copy of a police report.
To get a police report, go to your local police office with:
- a copy of the Identity Theft Report,
- a government-issued identification with your photo,
- proof of your address (mortgage statement, rental agreement, or utilities bill),
- any other proof you have of the theft (bills, IRS notices, etc.), and
- FTC’s Memo to Law Enforcement (you can get this document at Identitytheft.gov).
Let the police know that you’re the victim of identity theft and you want to file a report. Get a copy of the report, which you might need to complete other steps on the Identitytheft.gov website or for other purposes.
5. Let Other Creditors and Important Parties Know About the Theft
Close accounts, like credit, bank, ATM and phone accounts, that have been tampered with and open new ones with new PINs and passwords. If you find out about a new account, like a new credit card account, that you didn’t apply for, contact that company immediately.
It’s also a good idea to notify the post office if you think the thief filed a bogus change of address form on your behalf, and also to ask utility and phone companies to remove any fraudulent charges.
6. Talk to an Attorney
For additional help, seek out advice from a consumer protection attorney. An attorney can assist you with straightening out your financial matters, dealing with debt collectors, or getting the credit reporting agencies to delete fraudulent information from your credit report after an identity thief gets credit in your name. Rex C Anderson PC specializes in Consumer Identity Theft cases involving inaccurate credit reporting as well as in mistaken debt collection against persons who do not owe.
Call him for a free consultation.
Rex C. Anderson (P47068)
Rex Anderson PC
9459 Lapeer Rd.
Davison, MI 48423