Recently, I wrote about the basics of identity theft and provided a few tips for preventing it.
But what do you do if your identity has already been stolen?
Unfortunately, you can’t just put a “lojack” on your identity and have the police just go and pick it up. The bad news is that recovery from identity theft can take years and cost thousands of dollars. The good news is that there are new laws and regulations which work to make the recovery process faster and less expensive.
If you determine that you are the victim of identity theft, there are four steps you should take immediately. First and foremost, you should contact the three major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) and place a “fraud alert” on your credit report. I would highly recommend that you send your notice and request via regular mail, return receipt requested. Keep copies of all of your communications in this process, as well as all signed “green cards.”
Your second step is to contact someone in the security or fraud prevention department of each company where an account has been improperly opened. Be sure to inform the company that you have been a victim of identity theft, that you did not open or authorize the account, and ask that it be closed immediately. Again, be sure and send these notices via certified mail, return receipt requested. Be sure and obtain written confirmation from these companies that the accounts have been closed and that the fraudulent debts have been discharged.
Your third step in the process is to file a police report of identity theft. I would suggest filing the report with your local police department, as well as with a law enforcement agency in the area where the theft occurred (if you have this information). It is very important that you report this theft and cooperate with any subsequent investigation. Your rights and remedies in regard to the identity theft resolution process often depend on this step.
Finally, be sure to report the identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission. This process can be done online through their website at ftc.gov. Keep a copy of your report, as it will be very helpful in cleaning up the identity theft mess. You may also wish to provide a copy of this report to the local police who are investigating your criminal complaint.
By following these steps as outlined above, you will be able to resolve the headaches caused by identity thieves. It will take time and effort, but it is most certainly worth it. Your good name is your most important asset, and once it is stolen you must do whatever you can to get it back, even without a lojack.