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Stolen Identity? 9 Steps To Take Immediately When You Are The Victim Of Identity Theft
I am now a statistic, I am the victim of identity theft. I’m seriously still in shock and to be blunt, it has been a horrible experience so far.
The crazy thing is that I watch my credit regularly, I have notifications set up, but unfortunately, credit thieves are smart and they know what they are doing. I’ll write a separate post on what you can do to prevent identity theft, but for now, let’s cover what you need to do when identity theft occurs.
Identity theft occurs in a variety of ways, so some of these steps may vary slightly based on individual situations.
If you have any concerns that your identity may be compromised, I recommend signing up for Credit Sesame immediately. You’ll be able to get your credit score for free.
Credit Sesame is also a great way to proactively watch for potential identity theft since you’ll immediately be notified of anything that occurs to affect your credit score.
My story for background – You can skip if you just need the steps to take when your identity is stolen
I found out I had been the victim of identity theft when I received a call from Bank of America. Someone had opened checking & savings accounts and a credit card in my name using all of my personal information – scary huh!
Bank of America had done enough research at that point to have a pretty good idea that it was identity fraud and were able to find me using their database to confirm. Now, keep in mind that I have never had any accounts through Bank of America in my life.
After getting off the phone with Bank of America, I contacted Experian who I have fraud protection through. I immediately put a credit freeze on my account and then asked them to see if anyone else had run credit inquiries recently.
Unfortunately, Wells Fargo was also hit by the scammers. I contacted them and after two hours of holds and transfers was finally able to get verified and have the accounts closed.
From there, I filed a police report and am now in the process of working my way through the rest of the steps to get everything resolved.
All told, the scammers were able to scam almost $17,000 from Bank of America and almost $12,000 from Wells Fargo.
1. Immediately place a credit hold on your account with the three major credit bureau’s.
Technically if you place the hold with one, they should share the info and it will place a freeze on the other two bureau’s. I’m not that trusting and placed a freeze individually with all three of them.
It was a very easy process that can be done via phone. It can be done online as well, but in my rush, I did it via phone. This is only a 90-day hold, in order to actually freeze your credit you need to take additional steps which I’ll cover below.
Fraud Alert Requests:
2. Immediately run a credit report with all three credit bureau’s
I recommend calling since you have a live person who can actually look at your report. Typically the reports you see online are done in a batch cycle which means that they can be anywhere from 1-30 days behind.
I ran into this issue and was lucky I called since the Wells Fargo accounts weren’t showing up on my credit report yet.
The other benefit to calling in is the fact that you have phone records of the process you’ve taken.
In my case, it was very obvious that I hadn’t committed the identity fraud. I’ve heard horror stories of people who’ve had to fight to prove that they weren’t the perpetrator.
You need to do everything in your power to show a clear investigation line.
3. Follow up with all fraudulent information you find on your credit reports
As you review your credit report with the agent, write down any organization that has made a credit inquiry you don’t recognize.
Typically, the credit bureau will be able to tell you if the perpetrator opened accounts associated with the credit inquiry, but I wouldn’t totally trust their information.
For example, they told me Wells Fargo had a credit card account opened, but didn’t know that the perpetrator had also opened a line of credit in my name as well.
Also, keep in mind that the credit bureau is only covering credit related issues. They can’t tell if someone has opened a checking or savings account in your name. I’ll cover this issue in more detail below.
Once you have your list of credit inquiries the next step is to call everyone on the list to let them know you are the victim of identity theft.
There is no easy way to take care of this part. You are going to speak with multiple people and need to assume you will be spending hours on the phone with each separate company.
Keep in mind that you are calling a bank which is going to be trying to verify your identity based on information that a criminal has given them. This means you have to jump through a whole bunch of hoops.
The best advice I can give you is to be very calm and polite and remember it isn’t the banker’s fault. It is super tempting to take it out on them, but they have to follow procedure and the questions they are asking are for your protection.
4. File A Police report
Once you have an idea of the scope of the crime it is time to file a police report. This is a hassle too.
In my case, the perpetrator was based out of Las Angelos and I live in the Phoenix area. I was told by my local police department to file in LA. When I called them they wouldn’t take the report and told me to do it in my local area. I was finally able to file a local report because my local guys are awesome, but it took some back and forth to get it resolved.
It is kind of annoying, but most police departments have limited resources to deal with ID theft assistance.
Once the report is filed, they will give you a case number. However, it takes at minimum a few days to receive the report (if not longer).
At this point, I’m still waiting for the actual report, but upon receipt will be forwarding it to the each of the banks for their records. I will also use it to put a permanent freeze on my credit.
It is very important to file a police report since this can potentially protect you in the future.
5. Contact Chex Systems
This is a step that is often missed in the identity fraud process. I only knew about it because of my previous banking experience. Chex Systems is the verification company that banks use when they are opening checking and savings accounts.
If you are the victim of identity theft it is a good idea to reports to them as well so that they can create a flag on your account.
The vast majority of identity thieves aren’t going to use your info to open bank accounts since they are more interested in stealing, but you never know and it is a good idea to protect yourself.
I was able to do the report online through the Chex System website. Go to the section on identity theft. It took me less than five minutes to complete and will place a 90-day freeze on my account.
I can do a 7-year freeze with a formal affidavit which I’ll take care of next week.
6. File with the Federal Trade Commission
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommends filing an identity theft report through their system as well since it links with the FBI and other national databases.
I have to say I was pleasantly surprised with how easy it was to file the report and how much helpful information they provided.
To file your report, visit their website which is Identity Theft. The report took me 5-10 minutes to complete. They asked for a brief description of what happened and then had me provide as much information as possible on the accounts that were opened.
Once I was done, they provided a detailed list of recommendations and steps to complete. The recommendations included sample letters that you could send to banks, contact information for the credit bureaus and helpful hints on what to do in this situation.
I highly recommend taking this step as soon as possible if you are a victim of identity theft.
7. Freeze your credit
Freezing your credit is kind of a hassle. It means that no one can do anything with your credit unless you unfreeze your account.
This means car loans, house loans, credit cards – everything is frozen.
Keep in mind, there are a lot of minor things you do that fall under this. For example, if you want to open up an account with your local utility company you are going to need to either unfreeze your account or pay them a deposit.
However, after this experience, I firmly believe that the hassle is worth it.
To freeze your credit you will need to contact each of the credit bureaus individually.
I’m waiting to get my police report. If you have been the victim of identity theft and can provide a police report then you don’t have to pay for the freeze.
8. Review all your current accounts and update passwords
I made the decision to change all of my passwords for all of my financial accounts. At this point I don’t have a clue how my information got out, nor do I know what other information they have, so I’m playing it safe.
Even if you know how thieves got your info, I’d still recommend taking this step.
I’ve also contacted my current banks and asked them to put an alert on my accounts and set up phone passwords. It is a hassle, but a step I should have taken a long time ago.
9. Other steps to consider taking
Identity theft can lead to additional complications that many people never consider. Depending on your level of identity theft you may also want to consider looking into the following areas:
- Medical Insurance Fraud
- Social Security Fraud
- Tax Filing Fraud
- Retirement Account Theft
- Mortgage Loan Fraud
Once your information is out there and available everything changes. You have to be super careful and aware. Don’t just assume that it is a one and done thing.
Being a victim of identity theft sucks
I found out about my identity theft 4 days ago and have already had to spend 6-8 hours (that I didn’t have) trying to get everything resolved. I’ve still got a lot of follow up to do and have a feeling there will be more issues in the future. When you are the victim of identity theft you have to take care of everything immediately.
You can’t wait to report the issue and just hope it goes away.
If identity thieves get your information follow these 9 steps I’ve outlined as soon as possible. If you need additional help or have additional suggestions please comment below or drop me an email.