Identity theft is a frightening crime and chances are it may have happened to you or someone you know. It can damage your finances both short and long term and may significantly affect your credit score. If this should happen to you especially during a critical time like getting your mortgage approved, or while applying for an auto loan then you may start freaking out about how it will affect your plans because of the hit your credit score will take.
We won’t tell you that the process of fixing identity theft is simple and easy, but we will tell you that it is possible to do so. With the average case requiring more than 30 hours of time and effort to repair you may need to get professional help to take care of it. It is important to keep working until all of the incorrect items have been removed from your report. Otherwise, your score could suffer needlessly for years.
Always be on the lookout for fraudulent activities on your accounts so you can put a stop to it by reporting it to your financial institution.
Make Sure You Know If You Have Been A Victim
It is very easy to have your account or identity stolen and not even know it. To make sure your accounts are not stolen, set up regular transaction alerts. I have set up alerts with my credit card company so that I receive a text message every time a transaction takes place. That means the first time an unauthorized transaction happens, I will know right away and will be able to call and report it. Most credit card companies offer alerts that can be sent to you by email or text.
If Your Identity Has Been Stolen
If the fraudster is opening new accounts, your identity (including your Social Security Number) has likely been stolen. You will need to take the following steps immediately:
- Review an updated version of your credit report. You can download a free copy of all three reports at www.creditkarma.com. Make a note of all accounts that have been opened fraudulently.
- Call the fraud departments of the banks where the fraudulent accounts have been opened. Tell them that your identity has been stolen and that they need to freeze or close the accounts. Keep records of all of your calls.
- Call any collection agency that has registered a negative item on your report, and order them to remove it.
- Correct your credit report online by filing disputes with all three credit reporting agencies.
The likelihood of account or identity theft continues to increase. Whether or not you have already been hit by a fraudster, you need to remain vigilant in the future. That means setting up alerts on your existing accounts and reporting any suspicious behavior. You may also need to set up credit monitoring so you can see suspicious activity.
Unfortunately, we will be able to depend less on banks and will have to rely more on ourselves to detect and take action against fraud. But the good news is that many tools have been created to help us do just that. Now it is up to us to use them.
Leave a comment and tell us how you protect your credit score.