Identity theft resources — where does a victim begin?
If you’ve ever been the victim of identity theft, you know how lonely it can feel. Someone has taken away your most personal information. For financial identity theft, bill collectors start knocking on the door. Past due notices turn up in the mail. And, lawyers begin threatening legal action for something you had no control over. What identity theft resources are available to help victims? And where do you begin?
Why all those creditors are calling
My wife told me about a case in which a friend’s identity was stolen and used to buy everything from groceries to a car. Her friend had been fending off creditors on her own and was extremely distraught.
Let’s face it, all those creditors were hounding my wife’s friend for good reason. They’d been victimized, too. In this case, the dealer was out a car and the bank was out thousands of dollars. However, just because someone stole information and used it to buy a new car didn’t mean my wife’s friend had to pay for it.
This is the first step in the process as far as I’m concerned. Without a police report, the creditors and lawyers will keep on coming. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says this is optional, but having a police report on file stops the most aggressive creditors in their tracks.
Close down accounts and fraud alerts
The good news is the actual theft and use of stolen information doesn’t typically last long. Most identity thieves are opportunists and once the opportunity goes away, they move on. Depending upon how soon the crime is discovered, the actual thievery may be over in a few days.
Notify the companies where you know fraud is occurring and also place alerts on your accounts with the three credit bureaus. You should also get copies of your credit reports to see what other damage has taken place.
Identity theft resources
Here’s another reality check. Don’t think that just because some thief is no longer using your information you’re done. It can easily take more than a year for the recovery process. Take it from someone who’s been there, it’s a demoralizing and draining time. Fortunately, there are resources available to help.
The Identity Theft Resource Center at www.idtheftcenter.org is a good place to start. For victims, the resource center can be an invaluable place to obtain the necessary forms and letters to stop creditors from calling, find local identity theft resources that can help, and talk to a real person about what to do next.
Another resource is the Federal Trade Commission’s website at www.identitytheft.gov. This is a spot where you can review recovery checklists and get sample letters to use with creditors.