If you find yourself a victim of identity theft, there are three essential actions you need to take immediately:
- Notify your bank(s) and credit card companies of the identity theft. If you have already identified some fraudulent charges, report them immediately. Close out any affected credit cards. (Note: just because identity thieves steal one card does not mean they have access to other cards you may own. You will have to use your best judgment as to which cards to close and which ones you should not close. If you have any doubts about a credit or debit card, close it, and ask the bank to issue you a new account.
- Obtain a police report! Make several copies. The banks and credit card companies frequently will not take action on a claim of identity theft unless you provide a police report. The reason is simple: there are, unfortunately, people who falsify claims of identity theft to avoid paying their bills, but these deadbeats frequently do not file a police report because a false police report subjects a person to criminal prosecution. The banks and the bureaus see the filing of a police report as a “bona fide” that the person making the claim of identity theft is being honest, and is not just making the claim to avoid paying bills.
- Obtain copies of your credit reports with the three major bureaus: you can get one free report from each of major credit bureau (without credit scores) once a year through annualcreditreport.com. You need to review your credit report and promptly dispute any entries that may be the result of an identity theft. Dispute not only the tradelines—the sections showing your history with a given bank or lender—but also anything like a name you don’t recognize or an address you don’t recognize. Identity thieves can add false name variations (“Joe M. Jones” vs. “Joe L. Jones”) and false addresses when they steal your identity.
You need to take these three steps at once.
Should you sign up for credit monitoring? In my opinion, if you can get it for free or at a very, very reasonable price, and if it makes you feel better, then you can sign up for it. I personally do not have credit monitoring because I check my online bank pages frequently and I also check my credit reports periodically. I don’t necessarily recommend against credit monitoring; I just don’t like to see people pay good money for it when, in all but the most extreme situations, it’s probably not necessary.
I hope this short little blog entry helps you.
Copyright © 2018 by Robert F. Brennan. All rights reserved.