Identity theft is the process someone uses to gain personal access about you to create a new identity with your name. The person will then use this new identity to obtain credit cards, make unauthorized withdrawals from your bank account and even apply for loans in your name. Identity theft can be a costly headache for you as the victim, but by reporting identity theft as soon as possible, you can greatly reduce the hassle of putting your financial life back in order.
Often your first clue that something illegal has happened to your records is a call from a collecting agency about a bill for something that you did not purchase. Perhaps you will see a charge on your credit card bill for a transaction that you did not authorize. Or you may become aware of activity on your bank account.
Alerting the Credit Reporting Agencies
However you might discover this crime being committed against you, the first step is to report the identity theft to the proper entities. Credit reporting agencies should be notified right away by the placement of an alert on your credit file. You can place an initial alert, which is valid for 90 days, if you suspect a potential theft based on information that was taken from you.
For example, you might have had your purse stolen or realized you misplaced your wallet. If you have already experienced identity theft, report it to the credit agencies via an extended alert, which will remain on your credit report for seven years. The extended alert must be accompanied by an identity theft report which contains the information about the crime that was committed.
Alerting Institutions Holding your Accounts
Banks and credit card companies should also be notified as soon as you suspect fraudulent activity on an account. When you report identity theft to these businesses, you will probably be asked to close your account and open a new one with a different account number and password information. If unauthorized transactions have already occurred, you will need to fill out forms to dispute those transactions.
Alerting the Police and the Federal Trade Commission
You should also file a report on identity theft with your police department, and ask for a copy of the report for the banks and credit cards companies in question. Filing a report on identity theft with the FTC enables government officials to broaden the base of the investigation and increase the odds of catching the culprit.
If you are ever a victim of this type of crime, reporting the identity theft in a timely manner can save you an enormous amount of time and headache. Don’t delay in notifying the appropriate agencies so they can take the appropriate action.