What Do I Do If My Identity Is Stolen?

In the realm of science fiction and as a device in slapstick comedy, identity swaps often lead to hilarious adventures and comical misunderstandings. The humor in mistaken identity is a common plot element, even appearing in the works of Shakespeare. In the modern world of credit cards and digital money, however, the loss of or change in your identity is nothing to laugh about.

A stolen identity can encompass much more than just a stolen credit card. Identity theft includes personal information such as your name, address, and social security number, which allows another individual to make purchases or open accounts in your name. This is a serious crime, and it should be reported as soon as possible (even if it is a relative).

The first thing to do is to call the police, and file a report. Next, place fraud alerts on your credit reports by notifying all three major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Each of these bureaus will request a copy of the police report; you should in turn request a copy of your credit report. Review your credit reports thoroughly, because it is important to identify which actions are your own and which are those of an imposter. By logging all your recent activity, you can successfully track what has been stolen from you. The credit bureaus can put a lock on your account, to prevent any further credit from being issued.

The next step is to close or change all of your accounts, in order to effectively lock out the individual who may be responsible. Contact each of your credit card companies, your bank and other lenders to let them know about the situation. This helps to ensure that the thief can no longer use your identity.  The last step is to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC employs nationwide resources to track down those who commit identify theft and works to help those who are victims of this callous crime.

Identity theft can effectively ruin your credit, and although the issue can be resolved, it is certainly not a pleasant experience. Take measures to protect yourself against identity theft by paying close attention to your credit affairs. If you are getting phone calls from debtors about items you never purchased or offers for credit cards that you never applied for, it might be a sign that someone has hacked into your life. Do not hesitate to investigate your credit, if you feel something is awry. Legally, credit bureaus are required to provide one free credit report per year upon request. Additionally, the credit bureaus also have to give you a free report if you feel you are a victim of identity theft. When it comes to identity theft, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

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