Identity Theft: What to do if You’re a Victim
People often find out too late if they are victims of identity theft. It will usually come to light after a loan has been denied or after credit cards get canceled. What can you do if you find out your identity has been stolen, and how can you fix it?
You first need to stop the bleeding. You can call any one of the three major credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion — and they must place a fraud alert that will also alert the other two bureaus.
- Equifax, (800) 525-6285
- Experian, (888) 397-3742
- TransUnion, (800) 680-7289
This alert only lasts for 90 days, though. You may also need to place a credit freeze or an extended fraud alert with the credit reporting bureaus.
You also need to obtain all three of your credit reports and review for fraudulent accounts or inaccurate information. The government made the credit reporting bureaus provide a single convenient phone number for obtaining reports from all three bureaus, (877) 322-8228. It usually takes about two weeks to receive your credit reports back.
Once you receive the credit reports, review them carefully. You will then need to send a dispute to each credit reporting bureau the inaccurate items. Our office has a simple credit report dispute kit that you can use to do this. If you need help with what to write, we may be able to help.
If the fraudulent accounts are then fixed, you’re all set. But if the accounts remain despite your dispute, our office may be able to assist you with a claim under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The FCRA requires credit bureaus to delete inaccurate information, including information as a result of identity theft.