How to Fix Your Credit Report if Your Identity is Stolen
Identity theft is a serious issue. When they pretend to be you, identity thieves cause the accounts they open to show up on your credit report. This affects your ability to buy a car, get a mortgage, rent an apartment, or get a credit card. You need to take four steps if your identity is stolen.
- Place a Fraud Alert with the Credit Bureaus.
Although there are three credit reporting agencies, also called credit bureaus, you only need to contact one of them if you are a victim of identity theft. When you contact a single bureau, it will notify the other two bureaus so that you don’t have to. The alert will stay on your credit report for 90 days.
The fraud alert makes it so that if anyone tries to open an account in your name from a company, the company will have to verify your identity.
You can call any of the following credit bureaus to place a fraud alert.
Additionally, you can also request a credit freeze, meaning that potential creditors cannot obtain your report. Although some states allow the credit bureaus to charge for placing a credit freeze, it is free to do for Massachusetts residents. A credit freeze means that creditors cannot get your credit report, so there is no way to open new accounts. You need to have the credit freeze lifted if you want to open any new accounts.
- Obtain Your Credit Reports and Identify Fraudulent Accounts.
Fraudulent accounts will appear on your credit reports, so you need to obtain those reports to see which accounts are being reported on them.
Obtaining your credit reports is easy. Just call Annual Credit Report at 877-322-8228. Your reports will then be mailed to you within about two weeks. If you can’t get the credit reports by calling the toll-free number, fill out an Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to the address indicated.
Do not use a free service like Credit Karma. The credit reports that those services provide are not your official credit reports.
Then, review your credit reports to identify the accounts that you do not recognize and which you believe are a result of identity theft.
- Fill Out an Identity Theft Affidavit and File a Police Report.
Once you’ve identified the fraudulent accounts, fill out an Identity Theft Affidavit. The affidavit requires you to list the accounts and provide proof of your identity.
Then, take the Identity Theft Affidavit and bring it to your local police station. Tell them that your identity was stolen and that you want to file a police report. The police might not have the resources to pursue the offender who took your identity. However, once you fill out the police report, you can get a copy of the report.
- Dispute Accounts that are Inaccurately Reporting on Your Credit Report.
You should now have two extremely important documents: (1) the Identity Theft Affidavit; and (2) the police report.
You can now send disputes to each credit bureau to ask that the fraudulent accounts be removed. Please note: You must sent a separate dispute to each credit report. This means that if an account is being reported on all three credit reports, you will need to send a separate dispute to each bureau, even though what you write in each dispute might be identical.
When you send the disputes, be sure to include a copy of the Identity Theft Affidavit and the police report. Culik Law has a free Credit Report Dispute Kit that you can use which gives additional details. Or, just contact our office and we may be able to advise you on some of the best techniques for disputing inaccurate accounts.
Additionally, make sure to keep a copy of every document for your records.
Within 30 days you should receive a written response from the credit bureaus notifying you that the fraudulent account has been deleted.
If the account is not deleted, which sometimes happens, then you may need to take more drastic action. By not deleting the account, the credit bureau may have violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act. You will need to contact an experienced attorney to assist you with further action.
Culik Law is an identity theft law firm that can help you, often at no cost, to repair the consequences of having your identity stolen. Contact us for a case evaluation.