Money Talk Tip #4: Reporting and Recovering from Identity Theft
Despite our best efforts, even the most diligent people can become victims of identity theft. Besides fear and anger, victims are also left with a sense of panic and concern about how to repair the damage. Knowing who to contact and acting swiftly are the best steps you can take to move forward.
Hi, it’s Deb from Royal’s Financial Education team, back again with our fourth and final installment of our series on Identity Theft. (In case you missed them, here are parts one, two, and three.) We are concluding the series by listing the steps you should take if you are ever a victim of identity theft. Watch our latest Money Talk in 60 seconds video to see a quick overview of what you should do and then continue reading this blog for more detailed information.
As the video explains, you should start your journey back from identity theft by immediately reporting it to the proper places. This includes companies where fraud has occurred, the three credit bureaus, the Federal Trade Commission, your financial institution and credit card companies, and your local police department.
Contact Companies Where Fraud Occurred
Begin by contacting the companies where you know fraud has occurred. Talk to the fraud department and explain that someone stole your identity. Ask them to close or freeze your accounts and change your logins, passwords and PINS.
Contact the Three Credit Bureaus
Next, contact the three credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your account and request your credit reports (you can request one free report from each company annually by phone, mail, or visiting www.annualcreditreport.com). The three companies, with their fraud department contact numbers are Experian (888-397-3742), TransUnion (800-680-7289) and Equifax (800-525-6285). When reporting fraud, you only need to contact one of the credit bureaus and they will communicate with the other two.
Contact the Federal Trade Commission
File a report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) by visiting www.IdentityTheft.gov. They will create a personal recovery plan for you and help you put it into action by tracking your progress and pre-filling necessary forms and letters for you.
Contact Your Financial Institution
You will need to contact your financial institution to let them know that you’ve been a victim of identity theft. If your debit card has been stolen, have them close your card and dispute any unauthorized transactions. If someone is writing bad checks against your account, ask them to stop payment and close your account. Also ask them to report the theft to their check verification system, which will alert businesses to refuse the stolen checks. If you think someone may have opened a new checking account in your name, order a free copy of your ChexSystems report, which compiles information about your checking accounts, by visiting their website at www.chexsystems.com.
Contact Your Credit Card Companies
In addition to contacting your financial institution, you should alert your credit card companies. Many have zero-liability policies, but for those that don’t, federal law limits your liability for fraudulent charges to $50. If you report the loss before your card is used, you’re not responsible for any charges. You should also change your online passwords and PINS.
Contact Your Local Police Department
Finally, file a report with your local police department and take the following items with you: a copy of your FTC Identity Theft Report, a government-issued ID with photo, proof of your address (mortgage statement, rental agreement or utilities bill) and any other proof you have of the theft.
Take Steps to Repair the Damage
Once you’ve filed reports, you can begin repairing the damage. Start by contacting the fraud departments of businesses where you have accounts and notify them of any fraudulent charges. Contact the three credit bureaus regarding any information that shows up on your credit report that is the result of identity theft. Be sure to keep notes from every business and agency that you contact, including when and who you spoke to, and keep copies of any letters that you sent regarding the theft.
Be sure to follow up with the companies you have contacted to ensure that their investigations resulted in your favor. As a victim, you are ultimately responsible for working with credit grantors to remediate fraudulent accounts. Periodically check your credit report and consider purchasing ongoing credit monitoring.
Knowledge is power. Be informed and keep safe. Royal Credit Union is always here to help!