According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), more than 8 million people reported being victims of identity theft in 2005. Of those, 5% faced out-of-pocket expenses of more than $2,000. But that figure only includes their monetary loss and does not figure time wasted. Victims of this crime face a hard road to identity theft recovery.
Credit Fraud Alert
When you discover you have been a victim, you need to immediately contact all three credit bureaus and have a credit fraud alert placed on your credit report. This is especially important if your personal information has been used to open up new accounts. The credit fraud alert will let creditors, banks, and other lending organizations know that the information being used to open an account or to borrow funds may have been obtained illegally. This step can reduce the risk of further damage but it is only the first step towards identity theft recovery.
Start Contacting Creditors
If you know an account has been opened fraudulently or one of your existing accounts has been used without your permission, you need to contact the organizations associated with those accounts as soon as possible. Close the accounts, including your checking and savings accounts if you think they may have been compromised.
You can minimize your out-of-pocket expenses by completing a fraud report for each of the affected accounts. Thankfully, most financial institutions will not hold you liable for the lost funds. Most will require that you take the next step: contacting the police.
Contact the Authorities
Visit your local police station to file a report about the incident. Bring along any evidence you have of the fraud. The police may want to keep copies for the file, especially if you are not the lone victim. Do not expect much to come out of the police investigation, however. This recovery process rarely involves bringing the culprit to justice. But the police report will be needed to protect you from financial losses.
You should also file a complaint with the FTC. You can do this quickly online.
Start Getting Back to Normal
Part of the problem with identity theft recovery is it can take so long for your life to return to normal. The credit fraud alert will need to stay on your credit report for several months or even years. It also may take quite some time to remove negative information from them. Eventually, you will be able to put this incident behind you and move on with your regular life.