When you realize that you’ve been the victim of identity theft, there are many actions that you need to take quickly. You need to be in touch with the credit bureaus, the police, and your credit card companies. You should file reports and keep a paper trail of all of your interactions. Here are a number of other important actions to take to re-establish your identity and deal with identity theft.
You may find that debt collectors come to you to try to get the money spent by the thief. You’ll need to explain the situation to them and ask them for all information they have. Such information would include the name and contact information for the referring credit issuer, the amount of the debt, the account number and dates of charges. Follow up with them in writing and keep copies of all forms you send to them and that they send back to you. Under new provisions in the FCRA, a debt collector has the legal obligation to notify the creditor that the debt might have resulted from identity theft.
Check & Banking Fraud
If you find that you’ve had checks stolen or bank accounts that have been corrupted, you’ll need to have your bank report it to ChexSystems. This is a consumer reporting agency that creates reports on checking accounts. You’ll need to place a security alert on your file as well and discuss your issues with your bank. Your bank should have a fraud affidavit to give to you. If you’re not sure about some of your outstanding checks, write “stop payment” on them and close your checking account and any other accounts that might be affected. Create new, secure account passwords and monitor your accounts for any suspicious activity.
Stolen ATM Cards
Report any stolen or compromised ATM cards immediately. Get a fraud affidavit from your bank and get a new card with a new account number and password. Make sure to monitor this card closely. If the fraud isn’t reported immediately, you may actually be held liable for the money, so make sure to report it quickly. Follow up any phone calls that you make to the bank with a letter in writing and keep a copy for your files. Some cards are better protected against fraud than others, and the debit card contract will give you information about what your card provides.
US Mail Fraud
If you see that your mail has been tampered with, notify the Postal Inspector in your area. Suspicious situations would include if the mail has been used to commit a fraud, if your address has been changed without your permission, or if someone has opened your mail. Find out where any fraudulent credit cards and other mail were sent. Make sure you inform the local Postmaster to send all mail in your name to your address from now on, and be in touch with your local mail carrier about the situation as well. You can call the U.S. Postal Service for information about the nearest Postal Inspector at 800-275-8777.
Social Security Number Stealing
Unfortunately, the Social Security Administration (SSA) is not usually helpful with identity theft victims. You should still contact the SSA Inspector General to report that your Social Security number has been tampered with. You can call their fraud hot-line at 800-269-0271. You can only change your social security number in very rare cases, when you fit their very narrow fraud victim criteria.
The more that you are on top of the issues and ready to do something about identity theft, the faster you will take care of this terrible situation. Make sure to document every interaction that you have and to keep a file for this purpose. You need as much proof as possible about the identity theft, and about the actions that you have taken to correct this situation.