Identity theft nearly always catches the victim off-guard. For example, many of the Americans who experience this crime annually only find out that their financial information has been compromised when they receive an ominous call from their bank or an urgent message from their credit monitoring service.
In the aftermath, victims may be unsure of how to proceed, even if they know that time can be of the essence when disputing any unauthorized financial activity on their accounts. But, consumers can ensure they have the tools to handle this response. According to credit experts, this means creating a detailed response plan that serves as a step-by-step reference.
The Initial Steps to Combating Identity Theft
If you suspect you have become the victim of identity theft, credit experts say that the first action you should take is contacting one of the three major credit reporting bureaus. By calling Experian, Equifax or TransUnion — the three major credit bureaus — and placing a fraud alert on the account, consumers can prevent further damage to their credit reports if the thief has applied for new forms of borrowing in their name.
Following this, you are advised to fill out an identity theft affidavit, a document available from the Federal Trade Commission that allows you to record information about the theft and provide data about the fraudulent accounts and transactions so that you can send it to your creditors.
Contacting Banks, Law Enforcement Officials and Credit Card Companies
Once you record the details of the crime, you should contact your local police department and file a report. This document will contain your name and contact information so that you can be kept up-to-date on the ensuing investigation.
After notifying the authorities, you are advised to contact your banks and credit card companies so that you can place a stop order on any outstanding checks, and if necessary, close any of the affected accounts.
Taking the Final Steps Toward Securing Your Credit
In the aftermath of an instance of identity theft, you are advised to keep records of all your correspondences with banks, credit card companies, retail outlets or any other organization that could provide you with the tools to mount a successful dispute.
In the meantime, you should still notify other government organizations that may not have immediately come to mind. By contacting postal inspectors and the Internal Revenue Service, you can better ensure your information is being used properly, and that no essential documents fall into the hands of the thief.