Identity theft is a major issue as technology advances access to sensitive personal information. Preventing identity theft is much easier than having to repair compromised credit and personal accounts, a process that can take a lot of time and sometimes even more money than was lost. When identity theft occurs, individuals need to know how to handle the process of putting their personal affairs back in order. The federal government has provided the following action plan for victims of identity theft:
- Contact the institutions that were compromised by the theft (i.e. banks, credit card companies, lenders). These institutions need to be made aware of the theft as soon as possible so they can safeguard compromised accounts.
- Adjust your login information for accounts affected by the theft.
- Alert each of the three credit reporting agencies of the fraud. Alerting these agencies will entitle you to a free copy of your credit report, even if you have already used your free credit report for the year. Obtaining a copy of your credit report after having your identity stolen may give you a better idea of the damage incurred. Alerting the agencies of the fraud puts added measures in place to prevent someone else from continuing to use your credit. Note that you only need to notify one credit reporting agency, as the one you contact will be obligated to inform the other two.
- Alert the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) of the theft, and save the records they give you.
- File a police report. The documents you receive from the credit reporting agencies, FTC, and the police will give you ample evidence to help repair damaged accounts. In order to file a police report for identity theft, you will need:
- Government-issued photo ID
- Proof of address (i.e. utility bill, bank statement)
- Evidence of the theft (i.e. financial statements of compromised accounts)
- Once you have the police report compiled with the documents you acquire from the FTC, you can address fraudulent accounts and charges and work on getting the damaged mended. Additionally, you can contact the credit agencies and send them documentation proving the theft so that they can remove any negative items on your credit report that were caused by the theft. Make sure you always ask for written confirmation from the institutions you contact.
No one wants to be a victim of identity theft and fraud, but these steps will help streamline the process of repairing the consequences of criminal behavior.