Even if you take steps to prevent it, identity theft can still occur. Knowing how to respond and begin the recovery process is crucial for maintaining financial stability. If you don’t act quickly to halt fraudulent activity, you run the risk of being forced to pay off debts that should never have existed.
How to Report Identity Theft
Finding out your identity has been stolen and used to access your accounts is overwhelming and stressful. Knowing who to contact and where to report the issue can save valuable time and reduce damage. Here are the essential first steps to take as soon as you notice identity theft:
- Contact Creditors – First, contact the company or companies where you hold accounts you know have been compromised. Freeze the accounts and make sure the institutions are aware that your info was used illegally.
- Review Docs for Additional Activity – Before moving forward, look over your most recent bank statements, check accounts online, and request copies of your credit report. Finding all of the ways your info was wrongfully used is essential for canceling bogus charges and limiting your need for credit repair counseling.
- Initiate a Fraud Alert – Next, contact one of the big three credit reporting bureaus to request a fraud alert and freeze your credit so no new accounts can be opened in your name. Once one of these companies has placed a fraud alert on your credit, they are required to notify the others.
- Report Identity Theft to the FTC – Now go to the FTC’s ID Theft Reporting website to file a report. You can also read about resources and further recovery steps. This can be done completely online and you can create an account. You’ll then be provided with an individual recovery plan to help with filling out forms and tracking progress.
- File a Police Report – After you file with the FTC, you’ll be issued an Identity Theft Affidavit. Take this to your local police department. File a police report to go with your identity theft affidavit. With these forms, you’ll be able to take additional steps to fully recover from ID theft.
Now that you’ve got documents that prove your identity was stolen, you can start to repair any damage.
If you found any accounts that were opened in your name, contact those companies to close them. Call the fraud departments of the financial institutions you have accounts with. Have them cancel all charges made without your authorization.
Next, contact each of the big three credit reporting agencies to begin the process of correcting your reports. You’ll have to outline which entries are from fraudulent activity and them to be removed from your report. Depending on the severity of your situation, you may ask that they extend the fraud alert or credit freeze.
There are still other tasks that may be required in some cases. Your best option is to follow the FTC’s recovery plan completely. Once you have finished those steps, you’ll need to monitor your report and accounts. You may also consider using an identity theft protection service.
If you have lingering effects from a case of identity theft, some form of financial counseling can provide solutions to credit problems related to fraud.