OK. So someone has stolen your identity. Now what? After an identity theft incident, many victims are unsure of what to do next. Who do they inform? What steps do they take? How will they know if their credit reports and scores are unharmed?
These are all important questions that must be addressed, but it may be difficult for you to act methodically and efficiently if you have just learned you are an identity theft victim. Therefore, learning about the resources and fraud protection services available to you before an attack occurs can help you understand how to handle identity theft if it does happen to you.
Start With Credit Monitoring
Credit monitoring is often the go-to option for identity theft victims because it allows them to keep tabs on their credit reports and scores and stay alert of any unauthorized changes to their credit accounts. Enrolling in this type of service may offer you more peace of mind. If your personal information becomes compromised, it can help you stay vigilant to fraudulent activity that may occur in your name and damage your good credit score.
Dispute Fraudulent Items on Your Credit Reports
The information or marks on your credit report must meet two criteria: It must be fair and it must be accurate. While the former deals with instances when a credit company does not follow proper credit reporting guidelines, the latter provides you with a layer of fraud protection.
For example, if you find a fraudulent account on your credit reports, you may write a dispute letter to the credit reporting agency and the company that holds the account, informing them that the account in question is illegitimate. With your dispute letter, you will want to include any evidence that may support your case. Keep in mind that, by law, credit reporting agencies have 30 days to respond to a dispute letter
Identity Theft Protection Resources
One of the best things you can do for yourself — even if you aren’t a victim — is to take time and make an effort to familiarize yourself with organizations and other resources that can help you so you’ll know who to contact after an incident. Because so much responsibility to dispute fraud ultimately falls on a victim's shoulders, knowing who you can turn to for assistance and guidance may help alleviate some of that burden from you. Here is a list of contacts to keep top-of-mind:
- Better Business Bureau
- U.S. Department of Justice
- U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation
- U.S. Federal Trade Commission National Resource on Identity Theft
- U.S. Federal Trade Commission ID Theft Affidavit
- National Center for Victims of Crime
- National Fraud Information Center
- National White Collar Crime Center
- Privacy Rights Clearinghouse
- Sample Letter — to dispute an inaccurate item appearing in your credit file: Credit Dispute
- Sample Letter — to inform the credit reporting agencies that you’re a victim: Credit Bureaus
- Sample Letter — to inform your creditors or lenders that you’re a victim: Credit Issuer
- Sample Letter — o inform your local police department that you’re a victim: Police Department
- Website — to help you Remove Yourself from Mailing Lists, Telemarketing Lists, and Email Lists
- Additional Resources — Forms to file when your information has been compromised, and more
Education and Assistance