When identity theft strikes, many victims default to a state of panic. They worry about losing their hard-earned savings, their financial independence, and the countless hours they’ll have to spend repairing their credit. After all, identity theft ranks among America’s top ten biggest fears, according to a widely cited study by Chapman University. While the road to reclaiming a person’s identity starts with a few simple phone calls, it can be difficult to think straight and figure out the best next step after panic sets in.
In this post, we’ll help guide you through those first few action items, listing the agencies you should call and what you should discuss if you fall victim to identity theft. Feel free to print or bookmark this list for quick reference so you can start reclaiming your identity right away.
Federal Trade Commission
One of the first places you should report fraud or ID theft is with the Federal Trade Commission. You can reach it at 1-877-438-4338, or go online to www.identitytheft.gov. After going through the details of the crime, the FTC will provide you with an ID theft affidavit, which will become an important part of your identity theft report.
Armed with your ID theft affidavit, it’s time to call your local police station. Be prepared to rehash the details of the theft with authorities in order to file a police report. Make sure you ask to receive a copy of the report, as it – along with your ID theft affidavit – constitutes your official identity theft report. These documents contain the details you will need to prove your case to creditors.
Now that you’ve reported the crime, it’s time to take steps to protect your identity from future harm. Call each credit bureau to alert it of the theft and place a security freeze on your account. A security freeze adds a layer of protection to your account, requiring anyone who wants to open a new line of credit to verify his or her identification.
Once you’ve placed a freeze on your accounts, don’t forget to request your credit file – you can get a free copy any time you place a security freeze or fraud alert.
Here’s how you can reach each bureau by phone:
- Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
- Experian: 1-888-397-3742
- TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289
Having strengthened the protection on your credit against potential future damage, it’s finally time to call the affected financial institutions and let them know what happened. This might include your bank, credit card company or any retailers or websites where your account was used to commit fraud. Be ready to point out unauthorized charges and other fraudulent activity on your most recent statement. You should also keep your identity theft report handy, as it contains details they might need to confirm the fraud. This process can be time consuming, especially if multiple accounts were compromised, so be sure you have some time set aside before you call.
Credit monitoring companies like Identity Guard can not only help protect your identity, but they can also help guide you through the claims process if you ever become a victim. To learn more, contact us today.