What to Do When Your Identity Is Stolen

Part of the Identity Theft For Dummies Cheat Sheet

If you become an identity theft victim, you have lots of work ahead. These tips for dealing with identity theft can help you reclaim your good name:

  • File a police report. Not all states have passed legislation to mandate that local law enforcement agencies take reports of identity theft, but most law enforcement agencies will. To report identity theft in most jurisdictions, call the local law enforcement agency's non-violent non-emergency phone line. (Do not call 911.)

  • Complete a fraud affidavit. The fraud affidavit can be found on the Federal Trade Commission Web site as the theft affidavit. Keep copies of each affidavit you send out in your journal, along with the certified return receipt.

    Completing the fraud affidavit isn't difficult, but it can be time consuming. You need to complete one for each creditor, but you can streamline the process by completing the Victim Information section and then making copies to use for all the rest of the creditors and banks to whom you're sending the form. Be sure to sign each one before you send it.

  • Place a fraud alert or credit freeze on your credit report. The fraud alert requests creditors to contact you before opening any new accounts or making any changes to your existing accounts. As soon as the credit bureau confirms your fraud alert, the other two credit bureaus are notified automatically to place fraud alerts. You have to request that the reports be sent to you.

    A credit freeze is a good tool to help you reclaim your identity because it prevents the identity thief from using your credit to open accounts in your name. If you've been a victim, the freezes are free; otherwise, you have to pay to implement the freeze.

  • Continue to check your credit report regularly. When it comes to identity theft, there's no substitute for diligently reviewing your credit report. If you ever see something suspicious, act on it immediately.

  • Dispute all charges you didn't make. Don't be pressured into paying charges you didn't make or authorize. Even if the amount is small, don't pay. The creditors will try and recoup some of their losses from you by telling you that if you pay this small amount, you'll be helping yourself because the charge won't go to collections. Making a payment, in some cases, is considered accepting responsibility for the debt.

  • Report your stolen checks. You do this through a check verification company, such as SCAN or Certegy.

  • Close compromised accounts. If you think an account is being used by someone else, close it immediately.

  • Document conversations. Write down the name of anyone you talk to, what he or she told you, and the date the conversation occurred.

  • Organize your paperwork. There will be lots to keep track of in the paper trail:

    Keep the originals of supporting documentation, such as police reports and letters to and from creditors; send copies only.

    Set up a filing system for easy access to your paperwork.

    Keep copies of all correspondence or forms you send, with creditors and anyone else.

    Keep old files even if you believe your case is closed. One of the most difficult and annoying aspects of identity theft is that errors can reappear on your credit reports or your information can be re-circulated. Should this happen, you'll be glad you kept your files.

  • Follow up. Follow up in writing with all contacts you've made on the phone or in person. Use certified mail, return receipt requested.

  • Follow a checklist. Use this list as a checklist to help you ensure you have completed all tasks and followed up as necessary.

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Identity Theft For Dummies Cheat Sheet

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