How to protect yourself after identity theft
Recovery from identity theft may seem difficult, but it doesn’t have to leave a permanent scar on your credit. In fact, there are a few things you can do to help protect your credit after an identity breach and begin the credit recovery process.
6 steps to report identity theft
Here are six basic steps you may wish to take if you suspect identity theft to help you regain control of the situation and recover from it.
Alert service providers
Consider making direct contact with the kinds of companies that typically report to credit agencies. These can include credit card and utility companies. Such companies may also report subsequent account status changes to the agencies.
File an FTC fraud report
If you file a fraud report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the agency may help you create an Identity Theft Report and personal recovery plan. The Identity Theft Report can be useful as proof of fraudulent activity for creditor businesses. You can find an online form on the FTC website, or call the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-438-4338 for a direct report.
Contact your police department
The FTC also notes that you may wish to file a report with your local police. The agency recommends you bring evidence of the identity theft as well as a form of identification when you visit. Recommended documentation includes:
- A copy of the FTC Identity Theft Report
- A government-issued ID with a photo
- It’s possible that, as an identity theft victim, you may want to secure new government-issued identification at some point in the recovery process. For example, there are a variety of updated security features on government-issued IDs, like passports and licenses, which often include holograms.
- Proof of address (mortgage statement, rental agreement or utility bill)
- Additional proof of the theft (bills, tax notices, etc.)
If you decide to file a police report for identity theft, you might also want to ask for a copy of the report to validate claims with creditors.
Add a fraud alert to credit reports
The FTC recommends placing a fraud alert on credit reports for those who have experienced identity theft. This involves contacting a credit bureau to file a fraud alert.
- Once a credit bureau records a fraud alert, they must alert the other two credit bureaus of the fraudulent activity. For example, if Equifax® records a fraud alert, they’ll typically alert Experian™ and TransUnion®.
- Each credit bureau sends a letter to identity theft victims, confirming the fraud alert on their file.
- A fraud alert lasts for a year, at which point it can be renewed.
Enlist a credit monitoring service
Services, such as Chase Credit Journey®, can help alert you to new activity on accounts, so if someone who stole your identity tries to open or use an existing account, these acts may appear as new activity on your account.
Close unauthorized accounts
You may also choose to close new accounts opened by an identity thief. When you have an FTC Identity Theft Report, you can call each fraudulent account’s parent company. If you want to close unauthorized accounts, the process starts with these phone calls. You can check off the list below for each company contact you might make in this process.
- Notify the company that someone stole your identity.
- Request that the business close the account.
- Ask the company to send you a letter confirming that:
- The fraudulent account isn’t yours.
- You aren’t liable for the account’s activity.
- It was removed from your credit report.
- Upon receipt, keep this letter and use it if the account appears on your credit report again.
Restoring credit after identity theft
Experiencing identity theft may alter your credit as well as your attitude toward it. For instance, you might be interested to learn more about credit restoration services. For instance, Credit Journey offers a range of credit tools such as identity theft insurance and lost wallet assistance.
Recovering from identity theft is difficult, but it can be done. Then, in the spirit of prevention, fraud alerts, combined with credit monitoring and identity theft insurance, can keep it from happening in the first place, or happening again. Find out more with Credit Journey.