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The unthinkable has happened: someone has stolen your identity and now your credit score has been affected. You cannot get that new car you have been saving up for, you cannot get a home loan, no new credit cards, and that new cell phone you wanted now has a $600 deductible on it all because your credit has been affected. What do you do now? Where do you start? How can you rebuild your credit after something like this? Here are four steps that you can take to secure your credit after an identity thief has played with your good name.
Step 1: File A Police Report
Many people forget this step, especially since the crime didn’t happen at your home or anywhere really locally, but you must file a police report as soon as you realize you’ve been a victim of identity theft. The police can also help you fill out or file any other reports that you need to, such as with a local identity theft task force and so on. Having the main police report number is key to starting to remove items from your credit.
If you have never filed a police report before, it is very easy. You simply need to head to your local police station, and you can easily find the address to the closest one online. Once you are there, talk to the person at the information desk and inquire where you need to go to file a police report. They will ask you a few questions, such as what you need to file a report over, to determine which area of the department to send you to.
You will then meet with an officer or a detective and file your report. Be prepared to answer questions, have specific information (such as the dates, times, and other details about what has been done with your information), and generally be ready to let the officer know anything possible to help them with their report. Get the report number before you leave because you will need it for the next few steps.
Step 2: Head To Your Bank
Ask to meet with a customer service member at your bank, and let them know that you have had your identity stolen. They will need your police report number to fill out their paperwork and you will need to sign some paperwork there as well. I would suggest that you have any bank cards and credit cards through your bank canceled and new ones sent out to you immediately.
If you do this, it does mean a bit of work on your part but it will also mean that any id thief that has this information can no longer use it and do more damage. Also, if you have had checks stolen, make sure that you let the bank know this so they can cancel those checks and reorder you new ones.
You should also get a print out of your account for the past few months (or longer if you are unsure when the problem started) so that you can look for any suspicious charges on your account. Sometimes seeing things on paper in front of you can help you see them better, circle or mark any charges that you are unsure of. Take your time and go through your statements completely, you never know when something might slip through because you’re in a hurry. Once you go through them thoroughly, your bank can then help you file disputes on items or provide you with a way to dispute them.
Step 3: Get Copies Of Your Credit Reports
Once you’ve been a victim of identity theft, you are entitled to a free credit report from each of the three reporting bureaus. You will have to call each one to find out how you can request one, some only take requests in writing, others allow you to do it over the phone. Tell them that you have had your identity stolen and that you have already filed police reports. Once you get your credit reports back, this is where the fun begins.
You will need to go through each report thoroughly, and I mean with a fine tooth comb. Start with the very first thing on there and contact that company for more information if you aren’t sure what the charge is for. On a separate piece of paper, you need to make a list of the things that are not right and which report they are on.
Once you have gone through all three reports and have your list, you need to start drafting letters to each credit bureau for each different dispute. You need to list the charge on your credit, why you are disputing it, and list the police report number. Mail these out to the different bureaus and follow up with each dispute about 3 weeks later.
After you have followed up with them for the initial time, you want to stay on them. Follow up every week, or more, if you are not getting the response you need. Make sure that you keep records of who you have talked to, what was said, and what the outcome of the conversation was. This way, if anything falls through the cracks you can escalate the dispute with a manager or other supervisor.
Step 4: Put Protective Measures In Place
This step can easily be done while you’re doing any of the other steps, but that doesn’t mean it’s less important. Start looking into different types of identity theft protection companies that offer guarantees and can lock down your credit and your information quickly.
Lifelock is one of the main companies out there that offer identity theft protection and one that also allows you to customize your service to your needs. Any company that provides this type of service should be able to help you with keeping tabs on your information in case someone else tries to use it again by alerting you if someone tries to open an account, use your credit, or change any of your personal information.
If you aren’t sure which company to go with, I recommend that you check out some of the different identity theft protection reviews out there on the web. It is easy to sort through them to find out which offers the best protection for your needs. Make sure that you go with a company with a guarantee, as well as one that you can afford. Don’t go with a company that you don’t feel 100% comfortable with knowing your information.
Having your identity stolen is never a fun thing, and you will spend a ton of time cleaning up the aftermath. But if you do not take the steps to stop the problem from growing or to dispute charges and other problems with your accounts, it won’t take long before the problem starts to get you into big trouble. I always tell clients and friends that you want to be proactive against identity theft, not just wait around like it will never happen to you.
Author Bio: After working for several years in financial services, Chris Holdheide has seen the importance of protecting your identity firsthand. He created Stumble Forward to help those that are unsure of what to do to protect yourself and your information, as well as your financial assets, from identity thieves. You never know how important your information and your identity are until they are stolen. If you would like to learn more about Chris Holdheide and how his financial knowledge can help you, visit www.StumbleForward.com