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Identity Recovery Steps: What to Do After Identity Theft
We live in an age of convenience, where things like our bank accounts and ordering pizza can be accessed with the touch of our finger. But, this also means we’re sharing a lot of our personal info online like never before. And some people might take advantage of that!
If you find yourself facing identity theft, it’s important to know the appropriate actions to take. We’ve outlined some steps for you to take to start the identity recovery process — and help you breathe a little easier!
Do You Think You Have a Stolen Identity? Look for These Signs
There’s a number of ways you can tell if someone is using your personal information:
- If you see withdrawals from your bank account that you didn’t make or can’t explain.
- You have charges on your credit card that you didn’t make.
- Debt collectors call you regarding debts that aren’t yours.
- There are unfamiliar charges or accounts on your credit report.
- You get bills for utilities or medical services you didn’t use.
- You aren’t getting your bills or other mail.
- The IRS informs you that someone used your Social Security number for a tax refund or job.
It’s important to pay attention to your financial accounts, and if looking at them isn’t something you do regularly, you may want to start making it a habit. After all, it’s for your benefit! Here are some more tips to outsmart identity thieves.
How to Recover from Identity Theft
If you suspect fraud on any of your accounts, taking quick action is important to help reduce the damage and keep you pursuing what’s important. Take these three steps right away if your identity was stolen:
Place an initial fraud alert. There are three national credit reporting companies that can help you place a fraud alert on your credit: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. You’ll only have to contact one company, and the good news is, the companies will work together on your behalf to make it harder for the identity thief to open new accounts in your name. Keep in mind, the initial fraud alert stays on your credit for 90 days, so mark your calendar in case you need to renew it.
Order your credit reports. When you place the fraud alert, you’ll be permitted to order one free copy of your credit report from each of the three credit reporting companies. You may have already contacted the businesses of accounts that were stolen from, but go over your reports thoroughly to see if there are other fraudulent transactions or accounts listed. If you notice debts that aren’t yours or accounts you didn’t open, you will have to write the credit reporting companies and the fraud department of each business that reported an error.
Your letter should include the following:
- Open the letter by explaining you’re an identity theft victim.
- List all the errors you found in the credit report.
- Include all copies of documents showing the errors.
- Ask the credit reporting company to remove the fraudulent information.
The credit reporting company will investigate your case, and they’ll send your information to the business that reported the information to them. Once the business gets the notice, they have 30 days to investigate and respond to the credit reporting company.
If the business finds an error, they’ll notify the credit reporting company and your credit file will be corrected. The credit reporting company will send a letter to you stating the correction.
Create an Identity Theft Report. This report helps you deal with credit reporting companies, debt collectors and businesses with accounts in your name. The report has a number of uses, including removing fraudulent information from your credit report, getting information from companies about accounts the identity thief opened or misused, and placing an extended fraud alert on your credit report. Some companies may want more or different information than what an identity theft report includes depending on their policies. But this is a good place to start.
There are three steps to creating an Identity Theft Report:
- Submit your complaint to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at Identitytheft.gov and print a copy of the report. This will print as an Identity Theft Affidavit.
- File a police report and get a copy or the number of the police report. You’ll need to bring your FTC Identity Theft Affidavit you printed when you file a police report.
- Attach your affidavit to your police report to complete the Identity Theft Report.
Next Steps for Identity Recovery
Now that you’ve set the recovery process in motion and have the credit reporting companies and police involved, you can confidently deal with the problem head on. Monitoring your accounts and credit reports will keep you in the loop about any suspicious activity, and to help avoid hassle down the line, consider logging all your phone calls about the fraud, along with saving all written documents and emails.
If you want more information on protecting your credit and correcting identity theft, check out the Federal Trade Commission’s IdentityTheft.gov.
For extra protection and peace of mind, talk to your American Family agent about adding identity theft protection to your homeowners insurance — it’s smart, simple and affordable. You can even add identity theft protection to your renters insurance policy — just one more reason to get proactive about your protection!
Related Topics: Identity Theft