Has unauthorized access taken a toll on your hard earned credit score?
Identity theft is almost always financially motivated. A criminal may seek to exploit your credit in order to apply for credit cards or other loans under your name and in the process leave you with a mess to clean up. Adding insult to injury, the fraudulent access of your credit is also very likely to damage your credit score.
Don’t delay, here are some steps you can take right now to get your credit and financial well being back on track.
Review your credit report – Start by running your credit reports to get a clear picture of any inaccuracies that may have been caused by the unauthorized access of your credit.
Lock or freeze your credit – If you find fraudulent accounts after reviewing your credit report, one of the first steps you’ll want to take is to lock or freeze your credit in order to prevent any further unauthorized access and damage to your credit. Review our FAQ to learn more about how to lock or freeze your credit.
Contact the authorities as needed – If you uncover anything fraudulent you may consider contacting your local Sherrif’s office to file an official police report. This can be useful to establish documentation of the event which may also help to preserve your rights in the future — not to mention it may help in catching and prosecuting the criminal depending on the type of fraud that has been committed.
Reach out to banks/lenders involved – Be proactive in contacting your lenders. If the theft was as simple as a stolen credit card, make sure you cancel the credit card as soon as possible and initiate a discussion with the card issuer to discuss options such as reversing any fraudulent charges. If the theft was more complex and you notice a new line of credit that has been established without your permission, there may still be benefit in contacting the lender to inform them of the fraud.
Dispute fraudulent items to repair your credit – It is not uncommon the find out about unauthorized use of your identity and credit well after the fact. By the time you find out, your credit score may already have taken a serious hit. While frustrating and often time consuming, you have the option to dispute both erroneous and/or fraudulent charges with each of the credit reporting bureaus.
To accomplish this:
- Make sure you’ve obtained copies of your credit reports
- Highlight any accounts affected by fraudulent activity
- Provide documentation of the fraud to one of the credit bureaus involved (TransUnion, Equifax, or Experian) with any other necessary information such as your police report, if applicable.
You should only need to reach out to one of the bureaus with your dispute. After verifying your claim, the bureau will remove the fraudulent items from your credit report while also passing along the information to the other bureaus. Your credit should now be on the fast track to return to its normal score range.
Don’t forget to follow up – Depending on your situation you should consider following up with the banks, credit bureaus and/or the Sherrif’s department on a 30, 60 or 90 day basis in order to make sure everything is taken care of and moving in the right direction. This will also help protect you against any other unexpected surprises.
Need help sorting it all out?
Reclaiming your identity and your good credit after identity theft can be a very frustrating and time consuming experience. One FTC study found that 10 percent of all identity theft victims spent at least 55 hours resolving their problems and half of that group of people spent at least 130 hours.
One effective way to help decrease your burden is to work with an expert to help repair your credit. Having been around since the early 1990s, Lexington Law is one of the leaders in the credit repair field and they offer a free credit repair consultation.
To visit Lexington Law’s website, click here.