Recently, my son learned he was a victim of identity theft. At only 20 years old he wasn’t sure what steps he should take to recover, that’s when he asked for some help.
Identity theft is a growing problem, with more than 600,000 people filing claims in 2019. Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information, for example your social security number, to open a new account, make a purchase, or file a tax refund. No matter the type, identity theft can ruin your credit and cost you money.
Signs of ID Theft
There are several ways you might learn you are a victim of identity theft. The IRS might send you a notice or you might find unfamiliar accounts on your credit report. You may even receive a call about a debt you don’t owe. If you believe you are a victim there are several things you must do to recover.
Steps To Take
Contact the company where the fraud occurred.
First, call the fraud department of the company. Explain the situation and then ask for the accounts to be closed or frozen. Next, change logins, passwords, and PINs for all accounts.
Place a free fraud alert with a credit bureau.
Next, contact any one of the three credit bureaus to place a fraud alert. A fraud alert makes it more difficult for someone to open accounts in your name. The credit bureau you file your fraud alert with will contact the other two credit bureaus. The alert stays on your report for one year and can be renewed.
Obtain a copy of your credit reports
After you file your fraud alert, order your free copy of your credit report from each of the credit bureaus. You can also check your credit reports annually for free at http://AnnualCreditReport.com.
Report identity theft to the FTC
Immediately file a fraud report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) if you suspect you are a victim of identity theft.
You can file the report on their website: http://identitytheft.gov or call: 877-438-4338
- Be prepared to provide information about the situation for the report
- Your identity theft report helps prove that someone has stolen your identity
After, you will receive a personal recovery plan to help you fix any problems caused by identity theft. The recovery plan provides detailed advice and walks you through the recovery steps. Additionally, you can print letters and forms to send to credit bureaus and debt collectors.
What To Do Next
Close accounts opened in your name.
Once you have your FTC Identity Theft Report, contact the fraud department of the companies where the fraudulent accounts were set up.
- Explain the situation
- Ask for the account to be closed
- Ask for a letter confirming that the fraudulent account is not yours, you are not liable for it, and it has been removed from your credit report.
- Keep records including the confirmation letter
Correct your credit report
Review your credit reports. If there is fraudulent information on your credit report, contact the credit bureau and explain that there is information on your report that is due to identity theft. Then, ask for it to be blocked so that it does not show up on your credit report
Fraud Victim Assistance Department
PO Box 2000
Chester, PA 19016
PO Box 105069
Atlanta, GA 30348-5069
PO Box 9554
Allen, TX 75013
Review Your Credit Reports Often
Finally, because your credit report is often the first place one might see evidence of identity theft it is important to request and review your credit reports annually. Not only does this help prevent fraud, but it also helps ensure your information is accurate.