With so much of our financial information being processed online these days, identity theft is becoming a more popular crime than it was decades ago. Millions of people across our country have been victims of fraud and have gone through the process of clearing the evidence from their credit report and salvaging their credit score. After all, nefarious activities done in your name, by someone else, could stand in the way of major purchases you plan to make one day. We’ll walk through how to repair your credit report after identity theft so that you can get your finances back in order and under your control.
What it means when your identity is stolen
When someone steals your identity, they pretend to be you and open accounts, make purchases, and take out loans in your name. Financial institutions do not know that someone impersonating you is behind the transactions, so they see no difference between what you and the fraudster do. Anything your identity thief does under this pretense affects your finances and can be included on your credit report. Since it appears on your credit report, it will also affect your credit score. For example, if fraudsters fail to make a payment on a credit card they opened in your name, it’s as if you did not make a payment. This delinquency will show up on your credit report and in turn affect your credit score. In a sense, you have lost control of your financial history. You may not notice that your identity has been stolen until you’re denied for something like an auto loan that you expected to easily qualify for. All three credit bureaus offer you a free credit report every year. Reviewing your credit report is the best way to keep an eye on your accounts and make sure that there are no fraudulent schemes going on. The sooner you catch identity theft, the quicker you can stop it and clean up the effects.
What to do after your identity has been stolen
- Get a credit report from all three major bureaus: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. Go through each one very carefully to identify which accounts are fraudulent or do not match your payment history.
- Call each bureau and request a freeze and extended fraud alert. The freeze will stop new reports from being sent to lenders, thus preventing new accounts from being opened by the fraudster. The alert will make sure you’re notified each time a new account is opened for the next seven years.
- Get in touch with the fraud department for each of your creditors. Ask them to freeze your account and let them know that your account has been compromised.
- Change your online login credentials for all of your accounts, even ones that were not affected by the theft, to prevent future hacks.
- Report the identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
- File a police report to alert authorities of your situation.
- Send a notarized letter, identity theft affidavit, and copy of the police report to both your creditors and the credit bureaus. Send it via certified mail so you can track its progress and be sure it is delivered.
Any paperwork used in these steps should be kept to form a paper trail. Do not send any original paperwork to your creditors or credit bureaus. Make a copy of the police report and identity theft affidavit, for example, and keep the originals for your records. Keep notes about any phone calls you make and the contact information you used.
How to clear fraudulent accounts from your credit report
Once you’ve notified the FTC, your creditors, and the credit bureaus of your identity theft, you’ll have to wait to hear back about how the issue will be resolved. Some creditors may instantly delete the fraudulent account, while others may not handle it so easily. You may need to make phone calls, send additional documents, and provide more evidence to have your name cleared. Patience will be key at this step. The good news is that many people have completely resolved their identity theft and been able to get their credit score back up to where it should be.