Repairing Credit After Identity Theft


Identity theft involves someone stealing your financial and personal information for fraudulent use. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) establishes procedures for correcting fraudulent information on your credit report and requires that your report be made available only for certain legitimate business needs. Under the FCRA, both the consumer reporting company and the information provider (the business that sent the information to the consumer reporting company), such as a bank or credit card company, are responsible for correcting fraudulent information in your report. To protect your rights under the law, contact both the consumer reporting company and the information provider.

If you are a victim of identity theft it is recommended by the Federal Trade Commission to take the following four steps immediately to restore your credit rating, and keep a record that includes copies of all correspondence and the details of your conversations.

The first step is to review your credit reports from all three credit reporting agencies and to place a fraud alert on your credit reports. Fraud alerts can help prevent an identity thief from opening any more accounts in your name. Contact the toll-free fraud number of any of the three consumer reporting companies below to place a fraud alert on your credit report. You only need to contact one of the three companies to place an alert. The company you call is required to contact the other two, which will place an alert on their versions of your report, too. If you do not receive a confirmation from a company, you should contact that company directly to place a fraud alert.

Equifax: 1-800-525-6285;; P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241

Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742);; P.O. Box 9532, Allen, TX 75013

TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289;; Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790

Once you place the fraud alert in your file, you are entitled to request one free copy of your credit report from each of the three consumer reporting companies. Once you get your credit reports, review them carefully and look accounts you didn't open, inquiries from companies you haven't contacted and debts on your accounts that you can't explain. Check that information, like your Social Security number, addresses, initials or name, and employers are correct. If you find fraudulent or inaccurate information, get it removed. When you correct your credit report, use an Identity Theft Report (available at the FTC website) with a cover letter explaining your request, to get the fastest and most complete results. Continue to check your credit reports frequently, especially for the first year after you discover the identity theft, to make sure no new fraudulent activity has occurred.

Close the accounts that you believe or know, have been opened or tampered with fraudulently. Then, call them and talk with someone in the fraud or security department of each company. Follow up in writing, and include copies (NOT originals) of supporting documents. It's important to notify banks and credit card companies in writing. Send your letters by return receipt requested, certified mail, so you can document what the company received and when. Keep a file of your enclosures and correspondence. When you open new accounts, use new passwords and Personal Identification Numbers (PINs). Avoid using easily available information like your birth date, mother's maiden name, phone number, the last four digits of your Social Security number, or a series of consecutive numbers. If the identity thief has made debits or charges on your accounts, or has fraudulently opened accounts, ask the company for the forms to dispute those transactions.

Third, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. You can file a complaint with the FTC using their online complaint form at the Federal Trade Commission's website or call the FTC's Identity Theft Hotline, toll-free at 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338)and TTY at 1-866-653-4261 or write Identity Theft Clearinghouse, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20580. Be sure to call the Hotline to update your complaint if you have any additional information or problems. By sharing your identity theft complaint with the FTC, you will provide important information that can help law enforcement officials across the nation track down identity thieves and stop them. The FTC can refer victims' complaints to other government agencies and companies for further action, as well as investigate companies for violations of laws the agency enforces. Additionally, you can provide a printed copy of your online Complaint form to the police to incorporate into their police report.

Finally, file a report with your local police or the police in the community where the identity theft took place. You will want to call your local police department and tell them that you want to file a report about your identity theft. Ask them if you can file the report in person. If you cannot, ask if you can file a report over the Internet or telephone.

Overall, repairing your credit after identity theft can be accomplished by following the above steps. If you need additional information and forms to file on this subject, it is recommended you visit the FTC website at