Last week I talked about ways to protect your identity. If your identity is stolen or you suspect it has been stolen, what should you do?
According to the Federal Trade Commission (http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/media/video-0024-what-if-youre-victim-identity-theft), your first step should be to call the fraud department of the companies where you know or suspect the fraud occurred. Ask them to close or freeze the affected accounts. Also change the login information to your accounts, such as user names, passwords, and PINS.
Step two is to get your free credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com or call 1-877-322-8228. Review your credit report to see if there are any accounts or transactions that you don’t recognize. Also, contact one of the three credit bureaus and tell them to place a fraud alert on your file. The one you contact is required to tell the other two bureaus. The fraud alert is free and will make it harder for someone to open new accounts in your name. You should receive a letter from each of the credit bureaus that confirms they have placed a fraud alert on your file.
Your next step is to report the identify theft to the FTC. From your desktop or laptop computer, you can use the online complaint form on the FTC website https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov. If you are using a mobile device, you will need to call the FTC at 1-877-438-4338. Whichever form of communication you use, provide as many details as you can. You will receive an Identity Theft Affidavit. Print and save this affidavit immediately because once you leave the web page, you will no longer have access to your affidavit. If you need to update the affidavit, call 1-877-438-4338.
As soon as you have your FTC Identity Theft Affidavit, head to your local police department to report the theft. You will need the following information:
- A copy of your FTC Identity Theft Affidavit.
- Your government-issued photo ID.
- Proof of your address such as your mortgage statement or a utility bill.
- Any proof you have of the theft such as bills or an IRS notice.
If the police are reluctant to file the report, show them the FTC Memo to Law Enforcement found at http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/sites/default/files/articles/pdf/pdf-0088-ftc-memo-law-enforcement.pdf.
One additional step that is recommended on a guest blog on the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) website is to ask the police to run a criminal record check on you, the victim. The reason for the criminal record check is that if your identity has been stolen, it’s highly likely that your identity has been used to create forms of identification. Then when the criminal commits a crime, they will turn over the false identification and you will now have a criminal record.
According to the AICPA blog, the false criminal record can be cleared but the process is time-consuming. In the meantime, it could affect your ability to find or keep a job, to rent an apartment, or to obtain credit.
Based on the information you obtain in the prior steps, you may need to do the following:
- Close new accounts opened in your name.
- You may need to provide a copy of your FTC Identity Theft Report.
- The business needs to send you a letter confirming that the fraudulent account isn’t yours, that you aren’t liable for it, and that it was removed from your credit report.
- Keep a record of who you contacted and when.
- Remove fraudulent charges from your accounts. The same three points apply to this step as when you are closing new accounts.
- Correct your credit report.
- Write a letter to each of the three credit bureaus.
- Include a copy of your FTC Identity Theft Report and proof of your identity.
- Explain which information is from identity theft.
- Ask them to block that information.
- Consider adding an extended fraud alert or credit freeze to your credit report. You must contact all three credit bureaus if you choose this option.
An extended fraud alert:
- Allows you to obtain credit, but companies must take additional steps to verify your identity.
- As long as you are a victim of identity theft, it is free to place or remove this alert.
- Lasts for seven years.
A credit freeze:
- Stops all access to credit, even to you, until you lift or remove the freeze.
- There may be a fee to place or remove the freeze, depending on the laws in your state.
- Lasts until you lift or remove it.
Depending on your situation, you may have to contact additional agencies or steps:
- Resolve a tax-related identity theft.
- Report a misused Social Security number.
- Stop debt collectors from trying to collect debts you don’t owe.
- Replace government-issued IDs.
- Resolve child identity theft.
- Resolve medical identity theft.
- Clear your name of criminal charges.
As mentioned in last week’s blog, you need to be very careful with your personal information. If you become a victim of identity theft, act immediately to mitigate the damages and protect yourself.Judith Ackland has more than 26 years of experience in accountancy and financial planning, including seventeen years as a CFO of a diverse business. She started Crystal Financial in 2010 to help a wide array of individuals, families, and business owners better understand their finances and how good financial management could help them achieve their goals. Judith has an MA in Professional Accountancy from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln as well as a Certified Public Accountant Certificate and a Certified Financial Planner designation.