Identity theft is a very real and serious crime that is rapidly growing. It happens when a person, whether known or unknown, steals your identity and uses your personal information without your knowledge and/or permission to open accounts and borrow money in your name. Identity theft can destroy your financial reputation and can cost both time and money to repair your good name. While the federal government has enacted several laws to protect you from the devastating effects of identity theft, you must take action on your own behalf to protect your credit worthiness after the damage has already been done. Below are three simple steps to put you back on track to repairing your credit worthiness. Step One: Place an initial fraud alert on your credit report As explained in a post earlier this week, in 2003, the federal government amended the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”) to include the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (“FACTA”) which set more stringent guidelines in protecting consumers from identity theft both before and after it happens. Under this new amendment, you are entitled to place an initial fraud alert on your credit report. The three major credit reporting agencies, Experian, Equifax and Trans Union, keep detailed records of your credit history and must be put on notice if your identity has been compromised. Under FACTA, you have a right to notify the credit reporting agencies that your information has been misused and in response, they must reflect this on your report which will notify any credit grantor and/or existing creditor of your situation.
The purpose of a fraud alert is to stop the facilitation of the crime. If a fraud alert appears on your report, a creditor may not extend credit without first contacting you at the telephone number provided. An initial fraud alert lasts up to 90 days and may be renewed after the time has passed. Furthermore, a fraud alert entitles you to one free copy of your report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies.
Step Two: Order Copies of Your Credit Reports After placing an initial fraud alert on your report, you are now entitled to one free copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies. When ordering your report, it is highly recommended that you ask the agencies to report only the last four digits of your social security number to take extra precaution. If you know what accounts were fraudulently opened or used contact those companies directly without waiting for copies of your reports so that no time is wasted.
Upon receiving your report, mark all accounts and information which is related to the identity theft so that you may begin the dispute process. For a more detailed explanation of the dispute process see our website.
Step Three: Create Report of the Identity Theft An Identity Theft Report will aid in keeping you organized when dealing with repairing your credit. To create a report you must file an Identity Theft Affidavit with the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) stating you have been a victim of identity theft. Upon completion, you should file a police report using the Affidavit and together, the Affidavit and your police report make up the Identity Theft Report. With this report you can have fraudulent accounts and information more easily removed from your credit file, stop debt collectors from attempting to collect these fraudulent debts and place an extended fraud alert on your credit file.
If you believe you are the victim of identity theft, SmithMarco, P.C. can help you restore your good name. SmithMarco, P.C. has been protecting consumers since 2005. Contact us for a free consultation.