If you've been the victim of identity theft or online fraud, you can minimize the damage to your credit rating and finances. But you'll need to take action quickly and aggressively to get good results.
You'll need to talk to a lot of people, so staying organized is important. Keep a written log of all the contacts you make with creditors, financial institutions, etc. Keep copies of all letters, file paperwork promptly, and store everything in a safe and accessible place.
Creditors and Financial Institutions
- If someone's opened or used your accounts, contact your creditors immediately and ask for documentation of the fraudulent transactions. You may need to fill out the affidavit form from the Federal Trade Commission's website to help you file a police report.
- Change all the passwords and PINs connected with your accounts.
- If a collection agency contacts you about an account you did not open, explain in writing that this account was opened fraudulently and that you are not responsible for the debt. Ask them to confirm in writing that you are not responsible for the balance and that the account is closed.
- If your checking account has been used fraudulently, contact your financial institution and ask them to stop payment on any fraudulently written checks. Close your checking and savings accounts and open new ones. Check your account statements carefully.
- Report the fraud to check reporting agencies: ChexSystems and TeleCheck.
Legal and Government Agencies
- Report the fraud and file a police report. Ask for a copy of the report. You can also report the fraud to the Federal Trade Commission.
- If someone else has used your address, notify your local postal inspector.
- If someone else has used your Social Security number, notify the Social Security Administration.
Credit Reporting Bureaus
- Check your credit report (and your spouse's if you're married.) Get a report from each of the three major bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
- Report the crime to each credit bureau's fraud department. Request that they enter a "fraud alert" in your file so that no new credit can be granted without your approval.
- Continue to check your credit reports for inaccuracies every three months for a year, then annually after that.