Identity Theft Recovery Plan: Start with Your Credit Report
Check your bank accounts immediately if your personal information has been compromised, perhaps by a data breach or stolen credit card. You could be a victim of identity theft. If you see fraudulent charges, you may feel overwhelmed, frustrated, or even lost. There is no way to tell what exactly has been lost: money, personally identifiable information, even your credit could be in jeopardy. Fortunately, victims of identity theft have access to support systems and resources. The creation of an identity theft recovery plan will help minimize the damage.
Follow these steps if you notice fraudulent transactions or other indications that your identity has been stolen, as recommended by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC):
Immediate Actions to Take to Restore Your Identity
1. Call companies where fraudulent transactions took place.
If there is a fraud department, ask for it. Explain that your identity has been compromised and you did not make the purchases. Ask them to close your account or freeze it to prevent new charges, and change your passwords and PINs for all your accounts.
2. Place a fraud alert on your credit reports and order a copy.
You can place a fraud alert after ordering your free credit report by contacting any of the three major credit reporting agencies. It is the responsibility of the company you call to extend the alert to the other two bureaus. The alert is free and lasts for a year. You can have it renewed at the end of the year if necessary.
3. Report the identity theft to the FTC.
By filling out an IdentityTheft.gov form, or by calling 1-877-438-4388, you can protect yourself against identity theft. Based on the information provided, it will create an identity theft report and recovery plan.
Creating an account on the FTC website will allow you to update your recovery plan, track your progress, and get help with any letters or forms you need. After obtaining the report, you may need to contact the companies where the fraud occurred again.
4. File a police report.
Inform the police of your situation and let them know that a report must be filed. Hold on to the report – it will help you dispute charges later and fix your credit report.
You will need to bring:
- Government-issued identification
- Proof of your address
- A copy of your identity theft report
- All available proof of theft
- A copy of the FTC’s memo to law enforcement
Disputing Charges and Recover Your Credit
1. Close any fraudulent accounts that were opened in your name.
With your FTC report in hand, you are better equipped to share your situation with businesses or banks, which is crucial to recovering credit after identity theft. You should contact each entity where the fraud occurred, give them all the information, and request that the accounts be closed.
Request letters that prove the accounts were opened fraudulently. Verify that you are not responsible for any charges incurred. Request that the account be removed from your credit report if applicable.
Please keep the letters! In the future, if you need to dispute your credit report with one of the three credit bureaus, you’ll have proof.
2. Remove any fraudulent charges from your legitimate accounts.
Call the fraud department and tell them your identity has been compromised. The process is similar to the previous step, except that here you’ll only request that fraudulent charges be removed individually, rather than closing the account as a whole.
Request a letter confirming the fraudulent charges have been removed and keep it for later use. There’s a possibility you’ll need to provide a copy of your FTC report or complete a dispute form to prove any charges aren’t yours.
3. Recover Your Credit.
Using the FTC’s sample letter, you’ll need to write to each of the three major credit bureaus separately. Include information about fraudulently opened accounts and compromised legitimate accounts on your credit report. Include your proof of identity, as well as a copy of your FTC report, and request that any inaccurate information be removed from your credit report.
All of these steps have been completed at your financial institution: you’re almost there. You must now wait for the credit bureaus, your bank, and any other entities involved to process your claims. You might want to set up an extended fraud alert on your credit report that lasts for 7 years and comes at no charge, or a credit freeze to keep any new accounts from opening while you recover.
Although you can’t prevent every instance of identity theft, you can monitor your credit to protect your identity and take action before real damage occurs.
Is your personal information on the dark web? Make sure your identity isn’t at risk!