identity thief's credit report damage
Hello, I'm a victim of identity theft and thus my credit score is
ruined. I have successfully acquired letters from several companies
confirming the fact that thieves used my Social Security number.
How can I rebuild my credit now? The three major agencies have not
fixed my score after repeatedly providing sufficient proof.
As you and hundreds of thousands of others have found, clearing
up this type of theft can be frustrating and time-consuming. Since
I don't know where you are in the process, I'll start at the beginning,
and you can pick up from where you are on the course of suggested
Once you know your identity has been compromised and
used by a thief, follow these steps:
||File a police report. The report
is an essential tool you will need if a collector, law enforcement
agency or other party does not believe you when you tell them
"it wasn't me ... honest!" A police report may also
be needed to initiate a credit report freeze.
||Contact all three of the credit
bureaus to let them know you are an identity theft victim. In
theory, one call should result in a fraud alert being placed
on all three of your credit files within 24 hours. This does
not, however, always happen as it should, so I suggest you do
it yourself to be sure. There are two flavors of fraud alert
to choose from -- one for 90 days, the other for seven years.
If you have been victimized already, I'd do the seven-year alert.
||If you live
in a state that allows you to freeze
your credit file, get out your ice cubes and freeze that
report until you determine the extent of the damage caused by
credit and or debit cards that may have been compromised. You'll
find the phone number for the fraud department on your monthly
statement or through customer service.
||Inform the Federal Trade Commission
by visiting the ID Theft complaint
form on its Web site or calling the ID theft hot line at
(877) 438-4338, and fill out an Identity
Theft Affidavit that can be used to dispute accounts or
charges with creditors.
local post office if you believe that your identity may have
been stolen using information from pieces of your mail that
were illegally obtained.
To begin your credit life again
after identity theft, follow these steps below:
|| Close your existing bank, credit
card and other accounts, and reopen with new account numbers.
You want the thief to run into a dead end if he or she tries
to use any other information of yours that may have been stolen.
||Ask the credit
reporting agencies to put a block on the compromised accounts.
This should keep them from being counted in your credit score.
||With new accounts you will need
to choose new personal identification numbers, or PINs, and
passwords. Be sure you keep these safe, and never keep them
in written form in your wallet with the cards to which they
||Monitor your credit report frequently.
With a fraud alert on your file you are entitled to free reports
every six months. If you decide to use a monitoring service,
use one that checks all three bureaus often as well as public
records and other possible sources that will indicate you are
still being victimized. If you go this route, I'd recommend
you keep the service for two years after any fraudulent activity
ends to be sure your data aren't just being banked for future
I know that the pace of recovering from identity theft
and getting your credit life back to what it once was is slow and
burdensome. The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act is a useful
tool for persons who are having trouble with creditors or the credit
bureaus as a result of identity theft. Check out the consumer-oriented
provisions that may be of benefit on the FTC Web
site. One last thing for you to keep in the back of your mind
is that if the thief keeps using your Social Security number, especially
for illegal purposes, you may want to contact the Social Security
Administration about getting a new number assigned. This can be
done, but it is not easy and requires lots of work on your part
both before and after a new number is issued.
Debt Adviser, Steve Bucci, is the president of Money Management International
Financial Education Foundation and the author of Credit
Repair Kit for Dummies. Visit MMI
for additional debt advice or to ask a question of the Debt Adviser go to the "Ask the Experts" page and select "Debt" as your topic.