Our January 13th blog post, “5 Ways to Avoid Having Your Identity Stolen” recommended pro-active steps with an emphasis on organization to stop identity theft from the earliest moment possible. In this blog post, let’s assume the worst has happened: your identity has been stolen. Perhaps the thief has already used your information to open new credit card account? As soon as you are aware, what do you do to minimize the damage?
- Put a Fraud Alert on Your Credit Reports
A fraud alert notifies lenders and creditors to take extra steps to verify your identity before extending credit. To place a 90-day fraud alert on all three of your credit reports, you only need to contact one of the three credit reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion).
A fraud alert is great, but we recommend placing a security freeze on your credit reports. A freeze prevents creditors (except those with whom you already do business) from accessing your credit report(s)
- Experia: https://www.experian.com/freeze/center.html
- Equifax: https://www.freeze.equifax.com/Freeze/jsp/SFF_PersonalIDInfo.jsp
When you place a fraud alert on your credit reports, you’re entitled to a free copy of your credit report from each of the three agencies.
- Contact Any Institution Directly Affected
For example, if you know your credit card was stolen, report the theft to the credit card issuer. If your checkbook was stolen, contact your bank. Don’t waste your time calling any of the individual retailers where your card was used. That’s like complaining to your neighbors when your mail gets delivered to their house. Your best bet is to take it up with the postal carrier.
This step was also referenced in our prevention focused blog post as #1 “Photocopy the contents of your wallet.” However, your thief may have decided to branch out and open brand new accounts with companies that you’ve never heard of, so be prepared to seek out their phone numbers online.
- Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
- File a Police Report
Here in Denver, you can do it online. Obtain a copy of the police report and/or the report number. Both your police report and the FTC Identity Theft Affidavit combine to create your Identity Theft Report.
- Credit Monitoring – Get it.
Free: RMLEFCU recommends annualcreditreport.com where you can order your report from all three bureaus once a year, free of charge.
Going the free route means that you need to go through the reports looking for something. The downfall is that if you only order it once a year, you could have already missed evidence of identity theft. Unless you want to devote a decent amount of time to playing investigator yourself, you could hire a credit monitoring service. Credit monitoring does not actually stop the opening of new accounts, the type of identity theft these companies are best suited for, but it usually enables you to learn about the fraudulent accounts quicker than it takes for debt collection companies to track you down.
We hope these tips never come in handy. Your time, and your credit, is very important so any way that we can preserve both is a win-win. After all, we’re YOUR credit union and we have YOUR interests at heart.