Identity Theft is Real, and It’s a Pain (Part II)
If your identity is stolen, you have a lot of work to do.
You can minimize this by catching it as early as possible. Since we caught it before any payments had been labels “late,” we think that we saved ourselves some heartache. But, don’t be lulled into a complacency…even though we caught this early, it still took hours and hours and phone calls and phone calls to fix, and we’re not sure it’s over yet.
Here are the steps to take if your credit is compromised:
- Call the credit card company, ask for the Fraud Department (crucial – I can’t tell you how many people you could go through before you get the right person) and tell your story. In our case, we had some trouble proving that we were who we said we were – the perpetrators had given false addresses and mother’s maiden names.
- Log on to each of the credit bureaus and put a Freeze on your account. A Freeze simply means that no one else can have access to your credit report – as all lenders do before opening an account. There may be a small fee to place the Freeze, but this can be reimbursed when proper documentation is provided. You will see that the fee can be waived if you provide a police report, but, don’t wait place the Freeze immediately. The credit bureau websites are built to sell products and the Security Freeze section can be hard to find, here is the proper page for each:
- File a police report with your local police – within a few days they will provide you a written report to send to the credit bureaus and other interested parties.
- Go back to each of the credit bureaus and place a Fraud Alert on your account. You will need the police report for this, as well as other identifying items. Placing a fraud alert on your credit report tells lenders that they must always verify your identification before opening any credit. This can slow things down if you are in the middle of opening a loan, etc., so be aware. Again, here are the pages for placing a Fraud Alert:
- Create an Identity Theft Report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). This can help you to clear your credit with the credit bureaus or credit companies.
- Check all of your Social Security earnings to make sure that no one is using your soc. to file taxes and claim your refund. You can see your earnings by registering for mySocialSecurity on the Social Security website.
- File the proper forms with the IRS to be sure your Social Security Number is not being used to file false taxes.
- Review your credit reports every 4 months to ensure that you have cleared up the problem.
Also, some of the credit card companies that we worked with had Fraud Assistance programs. If you feel you need some extra guidance, these were excellent resources.