Discovering that your identity has been stolen and your once pristine credit reports have been trashed is a truly sickening feeling. After all, there is nothing worse than suffering from a trashed credit report when the credit problems which are there were not even caused by you in the first place. If this unfortunate event has ever happened to you, there is a small silver lining. To know how to recover from identity theft is certainly not an enjoyable process, but you do have some powerful consumer protection laws available to you if you have been a victim of this frustrating crime.
During this 4 part series on identity theft we are covering how you can detect identity theft, how you can prevent identity theft, how to recover from identity theft, and even how to protect your child from identity theft as well. Below, in part 3 of our series, we will discuss some effective ways to recover from theft if you and your personal information have already fallen victim to a scam artist.
How To Recover From Identity Theft: Assess the Damage and Make a List
Step number one if you suspect your personal information has been compromised is to take a close look at all 3 of your credit reports – Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. You should make a list of both any unauthorized inquiries appearing on your credit reports (that is a record of when lenders have pulled your credit reports) and any unauthorized accounts you find present. Keep the list handy. You will need it again soon.
Complete Your Identity Theft Report and Submit It
Once you have confirmed that you actually do have fraudulent inquiries and/or accounts showing up on your credit reports, it is time to complete your identity theft report. You can download a copy of your FTC (Federal Trade Commission) Identity Theft Affidavit online at IdentityTheft.gov. Once you have completed the affidavit you will need to print a copy and take it, along with your ID and another proof of address, to your local police department and file an official report.
Together the completed affidavit and police report are known as your “Identity Theft Report” according to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Your identity theft report can then be submitted, along with a list of all of the fraudulent accounts and unauthorized inquiries, to each of the 3 credit reporting agencies. Once the credit reporting agencies receive your dispute and identity theft report the FCRA gives them a mere 4 days to remove the fraudulent information from your credit reports. You’re now one step closer to recover from identity theft.
Consider a Credit Freeze
Though it is not a required step, placing a credit freeze can prevent identity thieves from opening any additional fraudulent accounts in your name. When you place a freeze on your credit reports no future lenders will be permitted access to your credit reports whenever anyone, including yourself, applies for credit in your name. (You will be given a PIN code so that you can “thaw” your credit reports in the event that you want to apply for a new, legitimate credit account in the future.) Additionally, if you have already been a victim of identity theft then there is no charge from the credit bureaus for this service. Other than these, there is a complete list for benefits of credit freeze.
Consider Asking for Help
Remember, you do not have to attempt to struggle through recovering from identity theft on your own. While the FCRA (Know Rights Under Fair Credit Reporting Act) certainly gives you considerable rights, you also have the right to hire a professional to walk you through the identity theft recovery process.
Hiring a professional can help to put your mind at ease and can make sure that the creditors and credit bureaus do not try to violate your rights.