Stop Ongoing Damage to Your Credit
Close all bank, credit, utility and service accounts that have been fraudulently opened or compromised. Request that a fraud alert or security freeze be placed on your credit report to stop new accounts from being fraudulently opened in your name.
- Immediately close all accounts that you know were used by a thief or that you suspect have been compromised.
- Make a list of all your bank, credit, utility and service accounts.
- Get a copy of your credit report and check to see that all accounts shown on the report are accounts which you authorized and that their related information is accurate (such as current balances).
- Close any unauthorized accounts that appear on your credit report.
- Contact credit bureaus to request that a fraud alert or security freeze be placed on your credit report.
The sooner you detect a problem, the less it can harm you. If you know about a specific account that an identity thief has used or has information about, your first step should be to immediately close that account.
In certain cases — such as, if someone finds your lost wallet and begins to use one of the credit cards it contains — assume that all your accounts are at risk and close them immediately.
To stay organized, make a list of all your bank accounts, credit cards, utilities and service providers and their contact information. Using this list as a guide, contact each institution and explain that you are an identity theft victim and ask to close the account. Most institutions will close the compromised account and issue a new account number with no penalty to you.
After contacting all the companies by phone, follow up by mailing them letters stating the date on which you called each one to tell them you might be a victim of identity theft and indicating that you asked, and the company agreed, to close the account and assign it a new number. Your letter should also detail other specific steps that the company agreed to take on your behalf.
Obtaining a Fraud Alert
After you have closed accounts so that the thieves can no longer use them, take immediate action to prevent them from opening NEW accounts in your name.
First, contact any of the credit bureaus listed to the left of this section and ask them to place a fraud alert on your file. Once this fraud alert is placed on your report, all new creditors who receive a copy of your credit report or credit score will know that you do not authorize the opening of a new account, issuance of a new credit card, or an increase in a credit limit unless the creditor first takes reasonable measures to confirm that the request is truly authorized by you. When requesting a fraud alert, indicate a telephone number where you can be contacted to provide verbal authorization before new lines of credit are issued in your name.
To obtain this alert, also called an "initial fraud alert," call the credit bureau by phone and tell them you believe you have been or may become a victim of fraud or identity theft. This initial alert lasts for 90 days. If you find out that you no longer need the fraud alert, you can call the credit bureau again and terminate it. Even though the law does not require that you request this type of alert in writing, it's always a good idea to follow up your telephone call to the credit bureau with a certified letter, return receipt requested, reiterating your request to have a fraud alert placed on your file. To ensure that all three credit reporting agencies place the alert on your file, mail a copy of your letter to each agency.
Free Credit Report
Placing a fraud alert on your credit report entitles you to receive a free copy of the report from each credit reporting agency. If it is not offered to you, request it.
Once you receive your report, compare the list of accounts that you previously made with the list of accounts shown on your credit report. If any unfamiliar accounts appear on your credit report, notify that creditor immediately, close the account and dispute the charges. Explain that the account may have been opened without your knowledge by an identity thief. Send a letter to the same effect to the credit reporting agency and request that the information regarding the fraudulent account be permanently removed from your record.
Limitations of a Fraud Alert
Be aware that a fraud alert notifies creditors who access your credit file that you may be a victim of identity theft, but it does NOT prohibit them from accessing your report or from issuing new credit in your name. Therefore, consider asking the credit reporting agencies to place a "security freeze" on your credit file. When this freeze is added to your report, all third parties, such as credit lenders or other companies (whose use is not exempt under law) will be unable to access your credit report without your permission. Once you place a freeze on your file, you will need to remove or temporarily lift the freeze anytime you want to apply for credit. Each credit reporting agency has its own process and fee for initiating and lifting a security freeze, so you should contact them individually.
A security freeze can be placed free of charge if you have reported the identity crime committed against you to the police and have a copy of the police report. Without such a report, credit bureaus can charge up to $10 each for you to place or lift a freeze. In the next step, you will find out how to report incidences of identity theft to law enforcement and how to obtain a police report.
Further Precautions Regarding Checking Accounts
As a further precautionary measure, determine if any bad checks have been passed in your name by contacting the Shared Check Authorization Network (SCAN). SCAN can quickly determine whether your checks have been fraudulently used in the United States.
If your checks have been misused, contact the check verification companies listed to the left and ask them to alert retailers to your situation. Each check verification company can ask retailers who use their databases to refuse any checks with compromised account numbers.
|Step 2: Report
ID Theft Crime