Well over half of the American consumers will go miles out of their way to find an ATM machine for cash or write a paper check before they trust a strange cashier with their credit or debit card. When major retailers report data breaches, that’s enough to make us all sit up and take notice.
Being a victim of identity theft will certainly set you back, but it doesn’t mean that eventual recovery isn’t possible if you carefully follow a plan for step by step on recovering from identity theft. Over the past few years, identity theft has become increasingly more common. Identity theft can make your life a lot more difficult. Aside from the obvious problem of someone charging, sometimes thousands of dollars to your credit card accounts which you could very well remain on the hook for, identity theft can easily wreck your credit for years to come. So, how do you pick up the pieces and rebuild your credit after someone steals your identity? In this article, I will explain some ways you can overcome and move on after an identity thief strikes.
Clues Someone Has Stolen Your Identity
There are clues you will find to let you know that you are a victim of identity theft, they include:
You find withdrawals from your bank account that you do not remember making or can’t find proof you made them.
Your bills or other mail stops coming to your home.
Your checks begin to bounce (returned for insufficient funds).
You begin receiving calls from debt collectors for debts you do not recognize.
You find accounts or charges you are not familiar with on your credit report.
You receive bills from medical providers for services you did not have performed.
Your legitimate medical claim is rejected because records show you have reached your benefits limit.
A health plan will not provide you with coverage because their records show you have a condition you know you do not have.
The IRS sends you a notification more than one tax return was filed under your name, or you have income from an employer you do not work for.
You receive notification from a credit protection company your information was compromised.
What To Do When You First Notice Your Identity Was Stolen
Watching out for identity theft is one reason to check your credit report on a regular basis. As soon as you notice signs there may be an issue with your credit report you need to act quickly before the problem becomes even worse. The first thing you should do is to contact the credit card companies with the questionable charges immediately and shut down all of the affected cards. Most credit card companies and banks will not hold you responsible for the fraudulent activity when you report the theft quickly. You will still have to dispute the charges to the accounts Quick action will prevent this issue from becoming larger and may also lead to the thief being caught.
Contact your bank and creditors to report stolen or missing cards. They may suggest that you close or “freeze” any accounts that may have been hacked. A very important part of a successful step by step on recovering from identity theft is changing card numbers and opening new accounts. This may seem a bit tedious but is often the only way to stop a problem before it gets out of hand. You should also contact the Federal Trade Commission to file a complaint so that you can receive a document identifying you as a victim.
Report The Theft
Next, you will want to report the identity theft to everyone concerned, by creating an Identity Theft Report. Send this report to all the businesses, banks, creditors, and the credit card reporting agencies to clear yourself of all fraudulent and inaccurate information. Report the identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) by visiting identitytheft.gov and submitting an affidavit. You can also contact the FTC by phone at 877-438-4338 then fill out and file their identity theft report and affidavit. Next, go to your local police station with your FTC affidavit and file a police report. Make sure you receive a copy of the police report along with your FTC affidavit and any other information you can gather. You will want to send copies of all of this information to your creditors, banks and any other business that was included in the theft, so it is easier to clear your name and your credit report.
Monitor Your Credit Record
Monitoring your credit record should be something you do every couple of months. However, it is especially important to follow your credit report after you have been the victim of identity theft. The most important reason for closely watching your credit report is to make sure there is not any more fraudulent activity to your accounts. However, just as important, you will need to monitor your credit report to see how you are progressing with rebuilding your credit as you move forward and put this situation behind you.
Putting The Pieces Back Together
Repairing the damage done to the victim of identity theft can be a long and frustrating experience, especially for people who have practiced careful credit management all their lives. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) estimates the recovery time from identity theft can take victims an average of 6 months and a couple of hundred hours of working the telephone, filing claims and monitoring creditors, responding to letters, working with credit bureaus and law enforcement and more. However, if you are a person who has used their credit wisely, earned an excellent credit rating and established a long history of responsible credit management, you may have an easier time reestablishing your credit rating than when you were trying to build your credit. Your history of responsible credit management will also go a long way toward proving that the recent careless credit card use is not one of your characteristics at all.
Rebuilding Your Credit
After becoming a victim of identity theft, your credit report will, most likely, be a disaster. However, unfortunately, the damage will go much deeper than having a hard time opening a new credit card. You also need to consider the fact your credit rating is also critical when applying for a job, ensuring your vehicle and many other crucial financial transactions. This makes reestablishing your credit rating essential.
Applying For a Credit Card After Identify Theft
After realizing you’ve become a victim of identity theft you may never want to see another credit card. However, unless you’re thinking of living “off the grid” you need a plan on applying for a credit card after an identity theft has occurred. It isn’t easy but acquiring credit after a thief has ruined your rating is possible. Life in the modern world without credit is not an enviable place to be but that doesn’t have to be your story if you persevere and don’t give up. Allowing another person’s dishonesty to make you afraid of credit won’t work if you plan on moving past their thievery towards your future goals. The following steps will help get your life back on track.
Close and Then Reopen All Accounts (From your banks to utility companies.) – You may have noticed unauthorized activity on only a single account among many but there is simply no way to know for certain those other accounts are going to be safe. At the least you will need to change account numbers, passwords, pin numbers and ID’s for every account you have, and that should work. However, the best way to be sure is by closing them all and opening new ones with alerts established to watch for trouble. Keep records on everything because you may need them when it comes to applying for a credit card after identity theft.
Changing Your Social Security Number – Applying for a credit card after identity theft doesn’t do much good if you continue using the same SS number. Even if your thief was caught and is now locked away, who knows how many other people your old SS number could have been sold to? Numbers like that are supposed to be good for a lifetime but they can, after much difficulty, be changed. The Social Security website is a good place to start or make a simple phone call to your local branch.
Get A New Driver’s License – As with the Social Security Administration, dealing with the DMV for a new license won’t be easy but neither is it impossible. Just because your license has a photo on it doesn’t mean a thief still can’t use it for their own purposes. How many times have you given your license number over the phone or online somewhere for I.D. purposes? A smart thief can do the same thing. Unless you change this document along with all the others your trouble isn’t over yet.
Even if the only thing you’ve ever used to take notes is a keyboard, get in the habit of carrying a pen and paper with you wherever you go on your quest for damage control. It could take years and you really can’t afford to lose track of a single detail. The more evidence and documentation you have when dealing with institutions like banks, the Social Security Administration, and your local Department of Motor Vehicles the better your chances are of a speedier end to the nightmare.
Some Thoughts For Getting Your Financial Life Back In Order Include:
It may be wise to hang on to the credit cards you had when you maintained careful credit management, rather than attempting to open a new card any time soon. Your current lenders will already know your history of credit management and be more accepting. If you do need to apply for a new credit card; try to stay away from some of the options you chose when you were starting out. These include secured credit cards, cards with high-interest rates focused on people with no credit or any of these other options because they will wind up costing you more in the long run. If you can prove you were the victim of identity theft and that you had stellar credit management practices before the crime, you should be able to come out the other side in relatively good shape.
Being a victim of identity theft after spending years working hard to create an excellent credit history is a real shame. However, before it ever comes to that, you should diligently guard against it with common sense. Use long, somewhat complicated passwords for your accounts. Don’t use the same password for all of your accounts and make sure they are not easy to figure out, like your birthday or some other simple date or name. Keep your essential documents, like your social security number safe. Moreover, most of all, monitor your credit report often, so if you see something questionable, you can react quickly.