When someone’s identity has been compromised, recovery takes more than replacing what was lost. For that reason, recovering from identity theft is a process. If your identity has been used by someone without your permission, you have to act quickly and systematically to minimize your harm and start to restore your credit.
Here is a general overview of the steps you should take if your identity has been stolen.
- Contact the Federal Trade Commission, the federal agency that collects information about identity theft and coordinates enforcement efforts with the FBI.
- Contact your local police department. The global nature of identity theft means your local department is unlikely the arrest the perpetrators, but a police report helps create a record that may be helping in trying to have unauthorized charges removed.
- Contact the major credit bureaus and request a fraud alert on your file. The fraud alert will prevent further accounts from being opened in your name for 90 days.
- Order a copy of your credit reports. Once you’ve placed a fraud alert, you’re entitled to a free copy from each bureau. Then you can review your credit reports to see exactly how you were affected by the identity theft.
- Contact the Internal Revenue service to see if your identity information has been used to file a fraudulent tax return.
- If your identity was compromised in a large data breach, take advantage of credit monitoring or other services the affected company may offer.
Finally, you can start to address the fraudulent items on your credit report. These might be accounts opened without your knowledge or credit used without your permission. You will need to notify the credit bureaus of the fraudulent items as well as the creditors involved.
You should work with them to block the fraudulent items from appearing on your credit reports in the future and to resolve outstanding debts.
Again, recovery from identity theft is a process that takes time and effort. The FTC offers a guide to identity theft recovery with further information and detailed checklists. For more, visit their website.