Life After Identity Theft

by Catherine Rein
(last updated April 24, 2009)

A year ago my mother was a victim of identity theft. Some thieves stole her social security number from some mail that she had inadvertently thrown out. They used the information to open credit accounts in her name and charge several thousand dollars in merchandise before they were caught. It took over a year for her to clear her record and have her credit restored.

There are as many as 9 million Americans affected each year by identity theft. If you are one of them there are some things you should know in order to get your life back:

  1. Contact the Police. After you've noticed that someone has used one of your credit cards, debit cards or used your identity in some other way, the first step is to cancel all credit cards and contact the police. You should be sure to keep a record with the details of all conversations and copies of all correspondence.
  2. Contact All Credit Issuers. The next step is to contact all creditors and credit bureaus. You should place a fraud alert on your credit report by contacting one of the three consumer reporting companies, TransUnion, Equifax and Experian. You need to only contact one of the three. You are then entitled to one free credit report from each of the three consumer reporting companies. Be sure to close any accounts that you believe have been impacted by the thieves.
  3. Get Application and Transaction Records. Contact the companies with disputed transactions. You should ask for fraud dispute forms and file a dispute for any unauthorized accounts that have been opened in your name. Be sure to ask for a letter stating that the company has closed the disputed accounts and has discharged the fraudulent debts. You will need the letter as proof if you have to deal with errors in the future or are contacted again about the fraudulent debt.

Thieves may get your information through physical means, such as searching your trash, stealing a wallet or by filling out a change of address card for your billing statements. They might also get your identity information via the computer by skimming the numbers using a special storage device when you use your card, or by phishing, a process where thieves pretend to be a real institution and trick you into giving them your personal information.

Author Bio

Catherine Rein

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