The calls have been steadily rising regarding phantom accounts. It was extremely confusing because the callers had all of your information and you had no idea what they were talking about. To top it all off, the conviction with which the callers insist you are the debtor is making you nervous. It is slowly dawning upon you that you might be the victim of identity fraud. Furthermore, you are getting collections calls and try to tell the collectors that you are the victim of identity theft but they don’t really listen or sarcastically tell you to fax them over a police report. This is getting extremely frustrating and stressful but what to do?
I wish I could give you an easy magical solution but unfortunately this happens more and more frequently and it is a process to dig yourself out of this terrible hole. The following are the most important steps you can take if you think you are the victim of identity fraud. Read the recommendations below carefully and remember that all of the organizations that you will call have extensive experience with this and processes in place to help you.
- Call or visit your banks and credit card accounts and let them know what you suspect. Sadly, it is not a big deal to them because they are use to this and will just change and update your accounts while also reviewing them with you.
- Request your credit reports and review them for weird stuff like accounts you did not open.
- Place a fraud alert on your credit reports
- If you found anything suspicious on your reports, dispute and request the credit bureaus the fraudulent information from your credit report. This is called blocking. You must send them a copy of your FTC Identity Theft Report, proof of your identity, and a letter stating which information is fraudulent. Then the credit bureau must tell the relevant creditor that someone stole your identity. Creditors cannot turn fraudulent debts over to debt collectors. You must do this in writing to the credit bureau. They must investigate your dispute and amend your report if you are right.
- Tell the reporting bureaus to initiate a credit freeze or security freeze. This makes it extremely difficult for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name.
- File a report with the Federal Trade Commission (Official FTC Website: identitytheft.gov)
- Contact your local police department and file a report (Example NYC: nyc.gov)
- Change all account passwords
- Get a new driver’s license with new number (if dl has been used/compromised)
- The Social Security Administration directs you to identitytheft.gov
How to handle the debt collectors
- Inform Debt Collectors of what has happened and send them in writing copies of the FTC report and Local Police reports
- Get copies of the debt they are calling you about
- They must stop contacting you after you tell them in writing to stop
The Three Major Credit Reporting Bureaus
Equifax – 1-800-525-6285
Trans Union – 1-800-680-7289
Experian – 1-888-397-3742