If you suspect you are a victim of identity theft or if you know you are, what should you do? Identity-theft victims don’t make the chaos but eventually they have to clear it. There’s no one who can do it except the consumer whose credit was ruined by an ID thief.
New initiatives can help identity-theft victims begin the lengthy procedure of demonstrating to creditors, collection agencies and law enforcement officials that they are who they say they are. It is up to the ID theft victim to prove that his identity has been stolen.
The first step is to report the crime to the police station where the crime occurred. Make sure the police report lists all fraud accounts. Give as much documented information as possible. Get a copy of the report and send it to the creditors and the credit-reporting agencies as verification of the crime. Keep the phone number of your police investigator handy.
Identity theft falls into three categories:
Financial identity theft:
This most commonly occurs when the Social Security number (SSN) and name is used to launch new lines of credit.
Criminal identity theft:
This happens when a person “borrows” the information of a minor to get a driver’s license. This person may be an illegal immigrant who purchased the information or a relative who has had a license suspended or revoked.
Most frequently, profilers have ‘friends’ in positions where they are able to collect information about minors and then sell it on the black market. The most reported buyers of this information are illegal immigrants or people who are trying to “restart” their lives and avoid arrest. It is also an open door to terrorists.
The Federal Trade Commission makes available standardized fraud declaration reports that victims can file with banks and creditors. Instead of filling out a separate fraud packet for each creditor, a victim should fill out a single fraud declaration and send signed copies to each creditor.
The ID Theft Affidavit is tremendously helpful when a new account has been opened in the victim’s name. The FTC advises victims to contact each of their creditors to confirm that they will accept this form. Most do, but some companies will want more or different forms.
This initiative could save victims time and quite a few headaches. When a consumer disputes information on a credit report, the credit agency will get in touch with the creditor and relay the consumers’ grievance. The creditor then checks its records and confirms whether the data it gave to the credit agency is accurate.
If the creditor confirms that the information it furnished is correct, the information remains on the consumer’s credit report.
The nation’s three credit-reporting agencies have restructured the fraud alert procedure. When an ID-theft victim calls any one of the three credit-reporting agencies, Trans Union, Equifax or Experian, that agency will inform the other two. The toll-free call will automatically prompt a fraud alert to be put on the victim’s credit report at each agency within 24 hours.
In addition, the victim will be automatically be removed from pre approved offers of credit and insurance for two years, and on application, be given copies of their credit report at no cost by each agency within three working days.
A fraud alert necessitates future creditors to contact the victim before any new credit is endorsed. The purpose of these alerts is to thwart an impostor from applying for and getting more credit in a victim’s name.
Act quickly by simply making one call when fraudsters strike. No more maneuvering through the voice mail systems of the three major credit agencies, each with a different procedure for reporting fraud. No more waiting for weeks to get your credit report.
Identity-theft victims are encouraged to get in touch with creditors on their own because creditors receive heaps of consumer grievances from credit agencies every month. The last thing you want is your urgent ID theft report to be mixed in with all sorts of other complaints.
The best way for fraud victims to be conspicuous among all these disputes is to contact creditors individually. Unfortunately, there’s no way to “make” a creditor or a collection agency believe an identity-theft victim.
There seems also to be no way to make creditors take heed of the fraud alerts that victims place on their credit reports. A fraud alert is supposed to prevent a creditor from approving more credit to an impostor.
An alert will be useful only if a creditor stops to read it. This doesn’t always happen and some creditors grant credit without even checking a person’s credit report.
So identity-theft victims end up examining their credit reports and disputing erroneous data long after realizing their ID has been stolen. It seems to be the only way to keep their credit reports clean. If you become an ID theft victim, all you can do is control and curtail the damage.