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Ah, identity theft. The two words that make all adults shiver. You have worked so hard to establish excellent credit. You’ve paid off your debt, paid your bills on time, and now all of a sudden it’s gone. Identity theft can be really scary and damaging, but it’s not the end of the world for you or your credit.
There are a few simple steps you can take to start repairing your credit after identity theft:
- Report identity theft
- Dispute fraudulent transactions and accounts
- Close fraudulently opened accounts
- Freeze your credit
- Protect yourself for the future
Let’s break some of this down, shall we?
1. Report identity theft
This is probably the most important on the list. The first thing to do once you realize your identity has been stolen is to report it! Be sure to file a police report alerting authorities that your identity has been stolen. Then, report the identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission. You can easily do that here.
Plus, report identity theft to all three credit reporting agencies: TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. Reporting identity theft to all of these places is the first step to getting your credit back on track.
2. Dispute fraudulent transactions
Disputing transactions is about letting the right people know that transactions that have been made on your behalf are actually not yours. It’s very similar to reporting identity theft, but it gets more specific. People who commit fraudulent transactions tend to rack up credit card bills, spend everything they have access to, and occasionally open additional fraudulent accounts in your name.
Obviously, there are ways to challenge all of this, but the process can take time. This is a great option to start a list of fraudulent transactions by reviewing bank statements and credit card statements. With some banks, you can even report fraudulent transactions online.
Additionally, using a free credit reporting service can provide excellent monitoring of accounts currently open in your name, using your social security number. You can add them to the list of questionable transactions and start working one by one until everything is correctly reported.
I know, it can seem daunting and time consuming, but by making a quick list and staying organized, you and your credit can bounce back.
3. Close fraudulently opened accounts
Unfortunately it’s true; criminals who commit fraud are sometimes unhappy with your current credit limits or checking account balance. So they commit more unsavory business by opening accounts in your name to commit more fraud and ultimately get more money.
Getting accounts reported as quickly as possible is extremely important to ensure that you don’t lose additional funds to identity theft.
4. Freeze your credit
Freezing your credit is a great option for everyone, not just those who have been victims of identity theft! It is relatively simple to freeze your credit with the three major credit bureaus. The credit freeze ensures that any credit application, or “damage” to your credit, is approved by you before proceeding.
For example, if you are going to apply for a loan, the bank must submit your information to the credit bureaus to obtain your credit history to see if they will approve you for the loan. If you have a credit freeze, the credit bureaus will not allow this inquiry until you approve it!
It is especially important as a victim of identity theft to freeze your credit. You never know when a sleazy identity thief will come back for more of your hard-earned cash.
5. Protect yourself for the future
The one thing you know for sure when someone has impersonated you is that you never, ever want to go through that process again. It’s exhausting and often very expensive when your identity is stolen.
Here are some easy ways to protect yourself against future identity theft:
- Keep an eye on your accounts
- Create fraud alerts
- Start by protecting your electronic devices
If you want more great ideas for protecting yourself against identity theft, you can read it all here.