Jo Why Lee

London - United Kingdom

    What To Do If Your Identity Gets Stolen

    November 12, 2013

    If your identity has been stolen, it can feel like the end of the world. It can seem like an arduous and gargantuan task to fix everything that needs fixing, whether it is disputing fraudulent charges or getting collection agencies off your back. With a few simple steps, however, you can start taking back control of your identity, and clean up your credit. Below are six simple steps you can take to start clearing your name.

    - Take action as soon as possible. The earlier you clean up your credit, the earlier you can clear your name. File a police report, and include in the police report a copy of your FTC ID complaint form, and all affected accounts. Send copies of the police report to all applicable creditors.

    - Contact the three credit reporting agencies - TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax - to place a fraud alert on your credit files. Provide a “victim’s statement”, which will allow them to notify you before changes can be made on current accounts or new accounts opened. Request a copy of your credit report as well; they are obligated to provide it for you for free if you are a victim of fraud. You can also ask the credit reporting agencies to freeze your credit report, which means that no one can access it. This service should be free in most states.

    - Invest in identity theft insurance. Becoming a victim of identity theft once is no guarantee that it won’t ever happen again. A paid service such as LifeLock will assist you in the aftermath of identity theft, and will also monitor your credit for any signs of inconsistencies or errors.

    - Dispute any and all fraudulent charges or mistakes on your credit reports. While you can make the requests yourself, the process can seem daunting and take a lot of time you may not have. You can use a service like Lexington Law, which uses paralegals and professionally licensed attorneys, to assist with challenging errors and fraudulent mistakes on credit reports.

    - Close any accounts that do not belong to you, or that have been tampered with. When you make your request to close the account, specify that you want the record to state “closed by creditor’s request”, as a simple “closed account” can reflect negatively on your credit report. Request from each creditor a copy of the transaction records the thief made on the account; your creditors are obligated to do this for free.

    - Change all of your account passwords or PINs. Given that the majority of consumers use the same passwords for many of their accounts, it is wise to go through all of your online accounts to change the passwords. Change your passwords to something difficult to guess, and don’t use your mother’s maiden name or any obvious hints like your birthday. Enable two-factor authentication on any accounts that have it available. Two-factor authentication requires you to enter your password and a code that is sent to your phone for extra security.

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