Having your identity stolen sucks. There’s no two ways about it. What you do when you find out that it has been stolen however can make a huge difference in how big a mess you have to clean up. In this post I’ll outline what steps I’ve taken along the way in trying to un-do what was done with my identity. It’s not a be-all-end-all list, but it’s a good start for your reference. In my case I was lucky enough to realize my ID was stolen within a few days without much damage having been done.
I personally know others that have had massive bills racked up and even fake companies established under their ID. As soon as I realized that my ID was stolen and someone was actively using it I sprung in to action to minimize what they could do. I did however make some mistakes but I’ll get to that later. First things first, as soon as you know your ID has been compromised you must notify one of the credit agencies to place an initial 90 day fraud alert. You can use either Equifax, Experian or Trans Union to place the initial claim. These agencies also provide credit monitoring services (see their reviews here). Once you notify one agency they will notify the other two.
Notification can be done online or over the phone. Notification can also be done in writing if you’re old school, but time is of the essence so I suggest phone or online submittal.
Experian Fraud Division1 888 397 3742 or their Fraud Alert page
Equifax Fraud Division1 800 525 6285 or their Fraud Alert page
TransUnion Fraud Division1 800 680 7289 or their Fraud Alert page (account required)
Something I highly recommend before you start calling the world is to get a note pad and pen and have that handy whenever you call someone. Keep a very detailed diary of any and all calls you make, when you make them, who you talk to and take notes on the content of the call (phone numbers, links, addresses, etc.).
You’ll be glad to have all this information written down in a single location when you need to recall something or, if need be, dispute something with details of a specific interaction with an institution. Now, once that’s complete and you have your notebook ready you need to assess what information of yours has been compromised. If it’s a credit card, call your credit card company. If it’s bank account information, call your bank. You get the idea. Get the word out to all your institutions that your identity has or may have been stolen. You’ll likely need new account numbers which will require further house keeping to update any automatic payments or withdrawals, direct deposit for paychecks, etc.
It’s a real pain but necessary to protect yourself. If only your credit card information has been stolen due to a lost wallet or picked off piece of mail you’re probably covered with just a couple of phone calls. If you’ve lost bank information or more, as was the case for me, then more calls and perhaps a stop at the local branch of your bank is in order. Since my bank account numbers were stolen I had to close all my accounts and get new ones. I also had to dispute a couple of payday loan charges as well.
In talking with my bank I was made aware for the first time of ChexSystems which is system that covers notifying banks of possible savings account and checking account fraud in your name. Good to know! Social security number lost? Mine was. Call the FTC, 1-877-438-4338, and file a complaint. Generating a complain with the FTC will be part of your ID theft report that could be necessary to provide to an agency or financial institution to dispute any fraudulent activity that happens in your name. Driver’s License information stolen? Now this may vary from state to state, but in my case the state of California will place an alert in the system that your ID has been stolen.
This should make it nearly impossible for anyone to try to get a new ID with your name on it. If you’re in a different state, call your DMV and see what they can do for you. Fraudulent activity in your name that you didn’t do? Call the police and file a report. Don’t like the police? Too bad, make the call! Now don’t expect them to hunt down the thief that has your ID unless they’re racking up some serious damage. If you live in a larger population area the police likely have more important things to be doing then hunting down some punk racking up a few hundred dollars in fraudulent purchases.
I’d guess if the damage is less then 5 figures you won’t get any activity from the police to see who’s behind your theft. Having the police paper work is what you’re after here – not catching a thief. The FTC complaint plus the police report is solid backing that you’re not fooling around when you tell a bank or collection company that you didn’t do what they say you did. If you have had fraudulent charges made, after you call the police call the company that was theived. Thefted? Stolen from.
Explain to them your situation that someone has stolen your identity and the charges being made in your name are fraudulent. You can also ask them to reverse any charges back to your account, but I don’t suggest this. The charge reversals should always be made by your financial institution This is actually where I made my mistake with the payday loan company. I informed them that the loan made in my name was not made by me and that I wanted the loan reversed and my name should be blocked from any future loans.
I pulled all the money out of my account but left the $100 from their loan in for them to retrieve. Well 2 weeks later nothing had happened so I called them back and asked them why they didn’t go get their money. They informed me that I (not really me, but the person pretending to be me) had paid off the loan a week ago so they didn’t take any further action. Didn’t even block my name after I told them my ID was stolen. Then they tell me that I (again not me) had taken out another loan for $900! Well needless to say that $900 didn’t show up in my account. The next day however, when the loan came due, $900 + interest was taken out of my account. Since there was only $100 in the account I also had account overdraw fees.
WTF! Now it’s a big mess. I was able to have my bank reverse the charges but what an unnecessary nightmare. Had I closed the account and had my bank reverse the original loan I think everything would’ve been clean. Anyways, it was a good thing I had filed a police report because that’s what the payday loan company now required to really block my name and SSN from being used again and to believe that ID theft had occurred. So, don’t be afraid to make these phone calls and be sure to keep good notes.
All the agencies and institutions that you’re a customer of want to help you in this situation. Be proactive to get your life back as quickly as possible and be vigilant with fighting any fraudulent activity that you find done in your name. For another good source of a to do checklist visit: