Ah, identity theft. The two words that make all adults shudder. You have worked so hard to establish great credit. You have paid down your debt, paid your bills on time, and now all of the sudden- it’s gone. Identity theft can be really scary and damaging, but it is not the end of the world for you or your credit.
There are a few simple steps you can take to start fixing your credit after identity theft:
- Report identity theft
- Dispute fraudulent transactions and accounts
- Close accounts that were opened fraudulently
- Freeze your credit
- Protect yourself for the future
Let’s break some of this down, shall we?
1. Report Identity Theft
This is quite possibly the most important one on the list. The first thing you should do once you realize your identity has been stolen is to report it! Be sure to file a police report alerting the authorities that your identity was stolen. Next, report identity theft to the federal trade commission. You can easily do that here.
Additionally, report identity theft to the three credit reporting agencies: Transunion, Equifax, and Experian. Reporting identity theft to all of these places is the first step to getting your credit back on track.
2. Dispute Fraudulent Transactions
Disputing transactions is the process of letting the correct people know that the transactions that were done in your name are in fact not yours. It is very similar to reporting identity theft, but this gets more specific. People who commit fraudulent transactions tend to rack up credit card bills, spend anything they have access too, and occasionally open additional fraudulent accounts in your name.
Obviously, there are ways you can dispute all of this, but the process can be time-consuming. It is a great option to start a list of fraudulent transactions by reviewing bank statements and credit card statements. With some banks, you can even report fraudulent transactions online.
Additionally, using a free credit reporting service can provide great oversight of the accounts that are currently opened in your name, using your social security number. You can add those to the list of disputable transactions, and start working one by one until everything is properly reported.
I know, it can seem daunting, and time-consuming, but by making a quick list and staying organized, you and your credit will be able to bounce back.
3. Close Accounts That Were Opened Fraudulently
Unfortunately, it is true; the criminals who commit fraud are sometimes not satisfied with your current credit limits or balance in your checking account. So they commit more unsavory business by opening accounts in your name to commit more fraud, and ultimately to get more money.
Getting accounts reported as fast as possible, is hugely important in making sure you aren’t losing additional funds as a result of identity theft.
4. Freeze Your Credit
Freezing your credit is a great option for anyone, not just those who have experienced identity theft! It is relatively simple to freeze your credit with the three main credit bureaus. Credit freezing makes sure that any credit inquiry, or “hit” to your credit, is approved by you before proceeding.
For example, if you go to apply for a loan, the bank has to submit your information to the credit bureaus to obtain your credit history to see if they will approve you for the loan. If you have a credit freeze, the credit bureaus will not allow this inquiry to go through until you approve it!
It is especially important, as a victim of identity theft to freeze your credit. You never know when a sleazy identity stealer will come back for more of your hard-earned cash.
5. Protect Yourself for the Future
The one thing you know for sure when someone has stolen your identity is that you never, ever, want to go through this process again. It is exhausting, and often times very costly when your identity is stolen.
Here are a few simple ways that you can protect yourself from future identity theft:
- Keep a close eye on your accounts
- Create fraud alerts
- Start by protecting your electronic devices
If you would like some more great ideas on protecting yourself against identity theft, you can read all about it here.