Chances are, you or someone you know is or has been a victim of ID Theft. This is a growing problem in our society that is affecting millions of people every year. In fact, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 16.6 million people were a victim of ID Theft in 2012. This number could be even bigger since different law enforcement agencies often classify ID Theft cases differently. With the growing concerns people have about their identities being stolen, I felt that this would be a good time to help educate people on what to do if you become a victim.
ID Theft can be classified 3 different ways:
- Unauthorized use or attempted use of an existing account.
- Unauthorized use or attempted use of personal information to open a new account.
- Misuse of personal information for fraudulent purposes.
Now that we have defined ID Theft, here are some important steps to take if you believe you are a victim:
- Place a fraud alert with the three major credit bureaus (Experian, Trans Union, and Equifax)
- Obtain a copy of your credit report. Everyone is entitled to a free copy of their report each year by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com or by phone at 877-322-8228.
- Create an Identity Theft Report by filling a complaint with the FTC or your local police department.
Keep in mind that after you complete those 3 steps, the work still isn’t finished. The next phase is known as the “Monitoring or Resolving Phase”. Although this process can be both complicated and time consuming, it is also very necessary. You need to be organized during this process because it requires a lot of phone calls and paperwork. Every time you make a phone call, you need to keep track of it. Write the phone number down, the name of the person you spoke to, the time, date, and the extent of the conversation. This way, you have a record of all of the communication between you and the creditor.
You will also be required to send in dispute letters and some additional documents to the creditors as well. When mailing paperwork, be sure to send only copies (never send originals). Send everything through certified mail and ask for a receipt. This way you can verify when the creditor received the paperwork. It can be tricky writing dispute letters, so here is a link for some sample letters, courtesy of the FTC: http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0281-sample-letters-and-forms-victims-identity-theft .
I know this seems like a lot to do and honestly it is. It’s certainly not fair to have to do all of this when you are the victim. The process can be stressful, frustrating, and time consuming. If you find yourself in this situation and feel like you need some additional help, give us a call at 800-355-2227. Apprisen offers a Credit Health Education session where we pull and review your tri-merge credit report, educate you how to dispute errors on your credit report, and create a personalized action plan to help you get back on the path to securing your financial well-being
If you are seeking a third party to help you with this matter, do your research on that organization first to make sure they are with the BBB, a member of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, and that they are a non-profit organization. There are a lot of “credit repair” scams out there charging an arm and a leg for their service, so be careful! Just remember to be smart about your identity. Use common sense and don’t share your information with anyone, especially over the phone. Shred all documents when you’re no longer using them and keep important files in a safe place.