Stop Identity Fraud Debt Collections

Identity fraud can be financially and emotionally devastating. According to some studies, victims of identity theft suffer the same emotional harm suffered by victims of violent crime. Even those that don’t, still suffer from devastating financial loss and a massive consumption of time to repair the damage done to their credit. Here are a few tips to stop identity fraud debt collection to recover quickly and effectively.

Identity fraud debt collection dispute letters

Lay the groundwork and send identity fraud dispute letters

Place fraud alerts on your credit reports

Fraud alerts are an excellent way to stop future identity theft from occurring. Place one any time your credit is stolen or used without your permission. They are only a short-term solution and do not stop collections for existing debt, however, so it is important to take additional steps as well.

File a police report

Once you discover your credit has been stolen or your name has been used to establish new credit you should file a police report. In most cases, the police will not actually investigate the fraud or prosecute the perpetrator but the report is helpful in disputing the identity theft accounts with the credit bureaus and collection agencies. File a report but don’t hold your breath waiting for police to actually act.

Send identity fraud dispute letters

Your next step is to send identity theft dispute letters to the credit bureaus and collection agencies. Properly done, these letters put the collection agencies and credit bureaus on alert that your identity or credit was stolen and informs them which accounts they cannot report or collect. There are numerous mistakes you can make in sending these fraud dispute letters so be careful and make sure you handle these letters correctly.

Avoid common identity fraud credit repair mistakes

Mainstream credit repair companies

One of the biggest mistakes consumers make in trying to recover from identity fraud or to stop identity theft debt collections is to hire a mainstream credit repair company. The simple fact is that almost all credit repair companies handle identity theft incorrectly. And its not even close. Many are so incompetent that they simply treat your identity theft debt collections the same as they would any other credit listing by sending the same cookie-cutter credit dispute letters over and over again.

The damage this can cause your case cannot be overstated. Sending a form letter like the mainstream credit repair organizations send can waive your legal rights and, if worded incorrectly, can actually result in making you liable for the debt when you were not liable before. Improperly worded dispute letters can also get you sued for the debt even when it isn’t actually yours. For example, in an identity theft fraud case that recently came across my desk the consumer was a victim of identity theft but tried to no avail to dispute the account using a well-known credit repair law firm. After months of sending the same form cookie-cutter credit dispute letters the firm had already sent on thousands of previous cases and the account was still being reported. The collection agency was also still attempting to collect the debt.

Identity theft collection agency letters

Victims of identity fraud can find various websites offering free identity theft collection agency letters to download. Use of those dispute letters is not recommended for several reasons. First, the letters we reviewed do not adequately protect your legal rights. Preserving your rights is the entire point of sending the letter so if it fails to meet that basic requirement you are doing more harm than good.

Many of the identity theft fraud dispute letters we reviewed also do not properly inform the credit bureaus of the theft. In some cases the dispute letters merely state in conclusory fashion that the account is the result of identity theft while other identity theft collection agency letters request information from the credit bureaus that isn’t even arguably helpful.

Other identity fraud collection letters of explanation threaten the credit bureaus or assert legal doctrines incorrectly. Neither tactic is effective or desirable. Indeed, one of the best ways to instruct the credit bureaus or collection agencies that you don’t actually know what your rights are is to incorrectly assert those rights. Credit repair is as much an art form as a science.


If a debt collector is hounding you for an identity theft account or the credit bureaus are reporting a debt that is the result of identity fraud your best course of action is to act fast. Place a fraud alert, file a police report, and send dispute letters to the creditors, debt collectors, and credit reporting agencies right away.

Trying to stop the identity theft debt collections on your own or by using a mainstream credit repair firm however, can cause more harm than good or even trigger lawsuits against you so use caution. Identity theft debt collections are not a cookie-cutter or form letter situation. These cases are fact-specific and must be handled on a more personal level. Stopping identity theft collections is simply too important to leave up to incompetence or luck.

Identity Fraud Reaches Record High Numbers

Identity fraud increased 16 percent in 2016 with a record 15.4 million Americans falling prey to one form of identity theft or another according to the new 2017 Identity Fraud Study from Javelin Strategy & Research. The total amount stolen in 2016 also increased to $16 billion dollars.

Card-not-present online fraud saw the biggest increase

The increases come mostly from online transactions also known as card-not-present fraud. In online card-not-present fraud there was 40 percent increase in thefts and out of pocket costs to the consumers were double the cost when compared to fraud involving point of sale transactions. Experts believe the spike in card-not-present online fraud is due largely to the new chip technologies which protect consumers more effectively during in-person purchases.

Account takeover fraud also increased

Account takeover fraud occurs when a thief hijacks an existing account. Account takeover frauds increased 61 percent in 2016 with victims paying an average of $263 which is five times higher than the average theft. The total amount lost in 2016 to account takeover fraud was approximately $2.3 billion dollars. There is no clear reason why account takeover fraud increased so dramatically but some experts believe the increase is the direct result of a lack of consumer oversight over their own accounts and the delays involved between purchases and billing statements being sent out which increases the amount of time before an account takeover theft can be detected. Unlike new account fraud, account takeover fraud cannot be detected by regularly reviewing your credit reports.

New account fraud

New account identity fraud also continues to plague American consumers and does not appear to be decreasing by any appreciable measure. In new account fraud identity thieves open new accounts in consumer’s names using information they either stole or purchased on the black market. Many of these new account theft cases go undiscovered for years until the consumer either learns of the theft through a review of their credit reports or when they are contacted by a debt collector seeking to collect the fraudulent debt.

Social networking fraud

The study also revealed that consumers who share their social life on digital platforms are at a much higher risk of account takeover fraud than consumers who are mostly offline or who are more private with their information. Social networks allow thieves access to contact information, information about friends and family, and updates on the daily lives of their victims. Some consumers even post travel plans online which allows identity thieves to add charges to an existing credit card or open a new account with less likelihood of being detected quickly.

The simple fact is that active social networkers are far more open about private information and are therefore more susceptible to fraud. The good news for social networking consumers is that, although they are more likely to be a victim of identity fraud, they are also likely to discover the theft more quickly than offline consumers.

Simplify identity fraud prevention

The average consumer does not need to hire a credit monitoring company or lock down their credit reports with credit freezes to prevent identity fraud. The most simple methods are often the most effective.

Start by using more discretion with providing information to strangers online. To be most effective, don’t share anything publicly. If you are going on vacation, just purchased a home, or have been shopping online recently, keep that information private. Identity thieves are masters of using information that seem harmless to access your accounts or open new accounts in your name. Don’t give them the chance.

Another proven method is to use a credit card for purchases rather than a debit card. That way, your losses are limited and theft can be detected more easily. Debit cards allow access to your entire account which can greatly increase any potential loss to identity fraud. If you insist on using a debit card rather that a credit card you can use multiple accounts to reduce your potential loss. Put a limited amount of money in the debit card account each week while keeping the bulk of your hard-earned money in a separate account. That way, the larger amount is protected and only the smaller account is at risk. Of course, nothing you do can prevent all forms of theft or identity fraud but diligent efforts will certainly reduce your risk and potential losses.

Identity Theft Protection Company LifeLock Fined $100 Million for Deceptive Sales Practices

Identity theft protection services company LifeLock® has been in trouble for deceptive practices and misleading consumers in the past but lately have been taking even more heat than before.

Prevent Computer Records Access Identity Theft
Computer Records Identity Theft Protection

In 2010, LifeLock entered into a settlement agreement with the Federal Trade Commission after it was accused of making false claims regarding the effectiveness of its identity theft protection services. Under the agreement, LifeLock paid $11 million. Now, after violating that agreement, LifeLock has been ordered to pay an additional $100 million in penalties and refunds. The money will be deposited with the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona but will be paid directly to consumers harmed by LifeLock’s violations.

“This settlement demonstrates the Commission’s commitment to enforcing the orders it has in place against companies, including orders requiring reasonable security for consumer data,” said FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez. “The fact that consumers paid Lifelock for help in protecting their sensitive personal information makes the charges in this case particularly troubling.”

This settlement comes at bad time for LifeLock since it was recently revealed that LifeLock was used by a man to stalk his ex-wife in Gilbert, Arizona. The woman, Suzanna Quintana, had her financial life monitored by her ex-husband using LifeLock’s identity theft protection services. The kicker is when LifeLock found out about the stalking, it stonewalled the Arizona woman and refused to help her clear up the matter. They even refused to provide the Arizona woman with information when she involved the police. Eventually, LifeLock gave in but not before making Quintana suffer needlessly.

“They didn’t listen to me. It’s almost like they didn’t believe me,” Quintana said. “They did not want to admit what they’d done. Since they are an identity-protection company, it was not in their best interest to admit my identity wasn’t protected. They tried to shift the blame to me.”

LifeLock allowed Quintana’s ex-husband to track her financial accounts, credit scores, credit reports, and public records as if he was the subject of the records. Quintana discovered the intrusion when one of her sons found a five-page spreadsheet on her ex-husband’s computer that documented her bank accounts, credit cards, and other financial activity using a LifeLock account in her name.

Kelley Bonsall, LifeLock’s Vice President of Media Relations and Corporate Social Responsibility, said in a public statement, “We’re distressed that someone was able to use our service to victimize his (ex-)wife. There’s often little a company can do to stop someone who is intent on causing harm using the personal information of a partner, but we owe this victim an apology because we did not assist her with the speed and care that the situation required.”

LifeLock® is a trademark of LifeLock, Inc.

Utah Security Freeze Law

Utah credit report freeze law

Identity theft is an increasingly common occurrence in Utah. If you are a victim one important tool you have to protect you from future theft of your accounts is the security or credit freeze. The freeze can be quite effective in preventing the thief from opening new accounts in your name if you act quickly.

What is a credit or security freeze?

In Utah, a security freeze is a way to freeze access to your credit so it cannot be easily stolen. You place the freeze with the three credit reporting agencies; Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Once placed, it prevents creditors from opening new accounts in your name. Although the freeze enables consumers to prevent access to their credit files, it also allows the consumer to enable access to selected companies.

Security Freeze Fees

Credit reporting agencies generally charge a fee for placing, lifting, or removing a security freeze on your reports but if you include a copy of the police report or provide the police docket number that documents the identity fraud the fee will be waived. If you are not a victim of identity theft, the fees for placing, lifting, or removing a credit freeze average between $3 and $10 per bureau though in some states the fees are even higher.

Credit Scores

If you are worried about how a credit freeze affects your credit score, fear not. A credit freeze has no effect on your credit score because it is intended only to prevent identity thieves from establishing new credit in your name. For the same reason, a credit freeze will not prevent identity thieves from accessing your existing credit accounts either.

Prescreened Offers of Credit

A credit freeze also won’t stop prescreened offers for credit. If you wish to stop prescreened credit offers, you may do so online, by mail, or by telephone by calling 888-5OPTOUT (888-567-8688). Opting out of prescreened credit offers can be for either five years or can be done permanently at your discretion. Not all companies send offers based on prescreening so opting out will not stop all junk mail; though it will stop most.

Free Annual Credit Reports

A credit security freeze also doesn’t prevent you from ordering your free annual credit reports or keep you from opening a new account, applying for a job, renting an apartment, or buying an insurance policy. You might need to temporarily lift the freeze for these types of credit but doing so is easy and fast in most cases. It is best to plan ahead when applying for these kinds of credit however so there won’t be needless delays or unwarranted rejections.

How to place a security freeze

Requesting a security freeze must be done in writing either online or by certified mail and you must include proof of your identity with the request.

Once requested, the credit reporting agencies must place the security freeze within five business days. They must then send you written confirmation of the freeze within ten business days of placing the request. The confirmation must include a unique personal identification number or password you can use to release your credit information to selected companies. If you issue authorization to a company to access your reports, authorization is limited to a specific party for a specific amount of time.

The security freeze contact information for the three major credit bureaus is as follows:


Equifax Security Freeze

P.O. Box 105788 Atlanta, GA 30348 Telephone: 888-298-0045 [/callout] [callout]

Experian Security Freeze

P.O. Box 9554 Allen, TX 75013 Telephone: 888-397-3742 [/callout] [callout]

Trans Union Security Freeze

P.O. Box 6790 Fullerton, CA 92834-6790 Telephone: 888-909-8872 [/callout]

How to temporarily unlock a security freeze

If you need to temporary unlock the freeze, no problem. Just call or write to the credit bureaus. The freeze must be temporarily removed within three business days if requested by mail or within 15 minutes during regular business hours if requested by telephone or electronically. You may request a temporary lift for a specific credit grantor or for a specific period of time ranging anywhere from one day to one full year.

Differences between a security freeze and fraud alerts

A security freeze completely locks down or “freezes” your credit. Once in place, creditors may not access your credit to extend new credit. Credit freezes are also specific to individual credit bureaus so you can freeze one and leave another totally open.

Fraud alerts, on the other hand, are merely a cautionary flag to alert lenders they should take special precautions before extending credit in your name. Typically, that involves calling you to verify that you are the actual person requesting the credit. When you set the fraud alert, you give the credit bureaus your telephone number so they know they are calling you rather than an imposter. Finally, when you set a fraud alert with one credit agency it is required by law to contact the other two so a fraud alert spans all three agencies rather than staying with one specific bureau.

The time frames are also different in some circumstances. For example, an initial fraud alert lasts for only 90 days while a security freeze stays in place for seven years. You can place an extended fraud alert however, which will also last for seven years so the time differences are not significant.

Another difference is that anyone can request a freeze of their credit while fraud alerts are only available to consumers who are, or reasonably believe they may become, victims of identity theft.

Security freeze considerations

A security freeze is an excellent tool in the fight against identity theft but in some cases you may want to remain cautious before placing a security freeze. For some consumers, the burdens of locking and unlocking the freeze can grow tiresome over time. For example, you may want to open a store credit card at the point of purchase and with a credit freeze in place might be stopped from doing so. The same is true for other types of credit such as requesting cell phone service or even applying for a job.

Another consideration is the burden of figuring out which credit bureau to unlock for any given situation. In some cases, the credit grantor can tell you in advance which credit bureau to unfreeze but there could be a situation where you would have to unfreeze all three agencies to be sure you the credit grantor gets the access they need to assess your creditworthiness.

Ultimately, the decision will be yours to make but if you want to prevent identity thieves from opening new lines of credit in your name, a credit or security freeze is one of many tool at your disposal.

How to Dispute Errors in Your Credit Report

Woman writing a credit dispute letter

Credit report errors are far too common. Indeed, studies suggest that as many as 25 percent of credit reports could contain serious errors. The most common errors are identity errors, incorrect account information, and fraudulent accounts. There are certainly many other kinds of errors but these are the most prevalent.

Identity Errors

Identity errors occur when the credit bureaus or creditors inadvertently report someone else’s payment history, names, addresses, or other information on your credit reports. Mostly this happens when your name, Social Security Number, or address is similar to someone else. These identity errors are common among family members with the same or similar names.

Incorrect Account Details

Sometimes the lenders, creditors, and debt collectors provide incorrect information about your accounts to the credit bureaus. Other times, the credit bureaus incorrectly process the information provided. These errors could be seriously reducing your credit scores in some cases. For example, an incorrect credit limit or balance could impact your credit utilization ratio. Similarly, if a credit card or other account is showing the opening date incorrectly, the age of that account could lower your score unfairly. In more extreme cases, you could have a fully paid account showing as delinquent which would lower your score.

Fraudulent Accounts

Fraudulent accounts can be one of the most serious errors in your credit reports. These accounts can drastically impact your credit utilization ratio, average age of your accounts, and can trigger abusive or unfair debt collection actions against you. The emotional impact of identity theft also cannot be overstated. Victims of identity theft often suffer from serious emotional distress due to the invasion of privacy identity theft causes.

Steps to Dispute Credit Report Errors

Step 1. Order Your Free Credit Reports

The first step in disputing credit report errors is to obtain your credit reports. You can get your reports for free once every twelve months from each of the three major bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Be sure to check all three. Each bureau is independent and reports information differently. You cannot assume that an error in one report is also reporting inaccurately in the other two. Check each one to be sure.

You are also entitled to a free report if a company takes adverse action against you based on information in your report. For example, denying your application for credit, insurance, or employment would give you the right to a free report as long as you request this free report within 60 days of receiving notice of the action. The adverse action notice will give you the name, address, and phone number of the credit reporting company so you know which credit bureau reported the information.

If you are unemployed and plan to look for a job within 60 days, on welfare, or if your report is inaccurate because of fraud, including identity theft, you are also entitled to a free report.

Step 2. Dispute Credit Report Errors

The next step is to tell the credit bureaus, in writing, what information is reporting inaccurately, why you dispute the information, and what you want the credit bureau to do with the incorrect listing. Do not use a form letter from the Internet. Write your own letter or hire an experienced credit repair attorney to help you. Sample letters from the Internet are helpful to get you started but copying one directly could get your dispute rejected.

If you have documentation to show why the information is reporting inaccurately, include copies with your dispute. This would include copies of your identity theft affidavit, police reports, proof of your identity, proof of your residency, or an entire identity theft report if applicable to your situation. You may also want to include a copy of your report with the incorrect information highlighted to simplify the dispute process.

Be sure to send your dispute letter by certified mail with a “return receipt requested,” so you can document what the credit reporting company received and when they received it. Keep a detailed file including copies of your dispute letters, their enclosures, and any responses you get back from the credit bureaus.

Once the credit bureau receives your dispute, it must conduct an investigation within 30 days, called a “reinvestigation,” unless it deems your dispute to be frivolous. Then it can reject your dispute. Normally, the reinvestigation consists of the bureau contacting the provider of the information and either verifying, deleting, or updating the information as it deems appropriate. The credit bureau will then report the results of the reinvestigation back to you.

Generally, the credit reporting company will give you results in writing and include a free copy of your report if the dispute results in a change. This free report does not count as your annual free report. If an item is changed or deleted, the credit reporting company cannot put the disputed information back in your file unless the information provider verifies that it is accurate and complete. The credit reporting company also must send you written notice that includes the name, address, and phone number of the information provider.

If you ask, the credit reporting company must send notices of any corrections to anyone who received your report in the past six months. You can also have a corrected copy of your report sent to anyone who received a copy during the past two years for employment purposes.

If an investigation doesn’t resolve your dispute with the credit reporting company, you can ask that a short statement of the dispute be included in your file and in future reports. You also can ask the credit reporting company to provide your statement to anyone who received a copy of your report in the recent past but you can expect to pay a fee for this service.

Step 3. Dispute Errors Directly with the Information Provider

If the credit bureaus do not respond appropriately to your dispute, you should send a letter directly to the information provider. As before, do so in writing and send the letter certified mail with a return receipt requested. You should also include copies of important documentation to assist their investigation.

If the provider continues to report the item you disputed to a credit reporting company, it must let the credit reporting company know about your dispute. And if the provider finds your information to be inaccurate or incomplete, it must notify the credit reporting agency to either update or delete the item.


If your reports show credit lines that are inaccurate or items are reporting in your name that you did not open you should act immediately. The credit reporting companies and information providers should be responsive to your disputes. Start by obtaining copies of your reports and reviewing them for errors. Next, send dispute letters to the credit reporting agencies and, if needed, to the information providers. Provide them with appropriate documentation to help their reinvestigation efforts and don’t give up if your initial letters are unsuccessful. It sometimes takes multiple dispute attempts to get results. If you are a victim of identity theft, start your dispute efforts by putting a fraud alert on your reports and fill out an identity theft affidavit. Next file a police report and let the credit bureaus and information providers know the account is the result of identity theft. If necessary, hire an experienced identity recovery attorney to assist you. Repairing your credit can be a time-consuming and difficult process. The results of credit reports free from errors, are well worth the effort however. Good credit saves you money. Review your reports for errors and take control of your credit health and financial future.

Identity Theft Debt Collection

Identity theft debt repair
Identity theft debt collection causes millions of Americans undue financial and emotional hardship every year. Debt collectors can be ruthless in their efforts to collect debt and are often skeptical and unsympathetic when a consumer claims to be a victim of identity theft. Restoring your credit after your identity is stolen can take time, money, and effort but is not impossible if you are diligent and persistent. If you are a victim of identity theft, here are a few basic but critical steps you can take to repair your stolen credit.

Set Initial Fraud Alerts

Contact at least one major credit bureau (Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion) and set an initial fraud alert. The initial fraud alert is only good for 90 days but can stop identity theft from continuing while you take the next steps. You actually only need to contact one credit bureau as the credit bureaus are required to report the initial fraud alert to the other bureaus, but to be sure the initial fraud alert is set you may want to contact more than one bureau. It is free to set initial fraud alerts.

Pull Your Credit Reports

Once you have set the initial fraud alert, pull a copy of your credit reports. Identity theft victims can get the credit reports for free and it doesn’t hurt your credit score to pull your own credit report so don’t hesitate to pull it. There might be other identity theft debts on your reports so you need to check each of them before moving on to the next steps.

File an Identity Theft Report with the Police

Be sure to also quickly report the identity theft to the police and file a police report. Provide law enforcement as much information as possible and maintain a copy of your identity theft law enforcement report. The report should also contain the name of the officer that took the report and a case number. You will be expected to sign the identity theft report under oath and penalty of perjury so be sure all the information you provide is accurate or you could be held criminally responsible.

Complete an Identity Theft Affidavit

The FTC has an identity theft affidavit that most creditors and debt collectors will honor. Some require their own forms but if those forms request information different from the FTC identity theft affidavit, check with a credit attorney to be sure you don’t waive any rights by using that form. In most cases, the FTC identity theft affidavit is the appropriate form to use. Be sure to have the FTC identity theft affidavit notarized. Most creditors and debt collectors require notarization before they will accept it.

Dispute the Identity Theft Debt

Your next step is to dispute the identity theft debt in writing. Don’t just call the debt collector or creditor. You need a paper trail to show that you informed them the debt was the result of identity theft. Include a copy of your police report and FTC identity theft affidavit with your dispute letter. Once the debt collector or creditor knows the debt is the result of identity theft they must stop collecting it. If they do not, they will be in violation of several state and federal debt collection and credit reporting laws.

Dispute the Credit Listing of the Identity Theft Debt

Many debt collectors and creditors will report the identity theft debt to the credit bureaus. If so, the debt will usually lower your credit score unfairly. Debt that results from identity theft should not count against your credit score or factor into determining your creditworthiness. Send the major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) a dispute letter explaining that the debt is the result of identity theft. Include a copy of your FTC identity theft affidavit and police report with your credit bureau dispute letters for best results.

Set Extended Fraud Alerts

Once you have your police report and FTC identity theft affidavit, you should contact the credit bureaus and set an extended fraud alert. The extended fraud alert is similar to the initial fraud alert but lasts for seven years so it provides you additional protection from identity theft for a longer period of time.

Pull Your Credit Reports

You should pull your credit reports periodically to be sure no other identity theft debts appear later. Even with the initial fraud alerts and extended fraud alerts, some identity theft can still occur, though it is relatively rare. Pull your credit reports every three to six months for at least the first year to be sure no other instances of identity theft have occurred. If you do find additional identity theft debt in these periodic reviews, you will have to walk through each of these steps again to repair your credit and stop the collections.


Identity theft debt can be stressful and difficult to repair but following these steps is an effective way to repair your credit and stop collections of the identity theft debt.

Identity Theft Targeting Younger Victims

Identity theft is targeting younger victims and still a growing crime according to the Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book, recently released by the Federal Trade Commission. Not surprisingly, the age of the victims is dropping each year as younger consumers increasingly shop online without properly protecting their personal information. It seems the younger generation, though raised on personal computers, lacks the street smarts needed to match the identity thieves’ techniques.

Most surprising are the FTC’s recommended solutions for restoring your identity after a theft occurs. With two million victims every year – and growing – you would think the FTC would advise consumers to do more than merely report identity thefts and place initial fraud alerts. Yes, a fraud alert is an important step in the process but much more needs to be done. Reporting the crime to the FTC as they recommend is just an exercise in futility, doing nothing to actually help the victim restore their stolen identity.

Most important in reporting identity theft is the method by which the identity restoration is approached. There are several critical legal issues involved with reporting identity theft that if done improperly can have disastrous results for the consumer. For example, if consumers fail to include certain documentation or use the correct language in their communications with creditors and debt collectors they can be held liable for identity theft debt. The same problem arises when consumers try to remove identity theft debt from credit reports. Using the wrong language or taking the wrong approach in dispute or challenge letters will result in denials to investigate or delete the information. At a minimum the process of identity restoration will be delayed by failing to take the proper steps.

In addition to the financial ramifications, identity theft can also be emotionally devastating to the victims. Many victims of identity theft report symptoms of emotional distress similar to victims of violent crime. Restoring the consumer’s identity after a theft occurs simply adds to the stress these victims face.

The best advice to consumers is to report identity theft correctly and carefully. If consumers are unsure how to do so or if they are a victim of criminal identity theft they should contact an experienced consumer protection attorney who can walk them through the process.

How to Report Identity Theft

How to report identity theft.

It only takes a few simple steps to report identity theft and clear up your good name and end the devastating financial and emotional harm caused by identity theft.

Step One

Set an initial fraud alert with at least one of the three major credit bureaus. Only one is needed because the credit bureaus are required to alert each other when a fraud alert is placed. If you want to be sure fraud alerts are placed on all three then feel free to contact all three. It doesn’t take much time to take this first step to report identity theft and doing so will give you a little additional peace of mind.

Step Two

Obtain your free annual credit report and review it closely to identify which accounts are the result of identity theft.

Step Three

Complete an identity theft affidavit. Be sure to fill it out accurately and completely. You can be criminally prosecuted for lying in an identity theft affidavit.

Step Four

File a police report of the identity theft. No, the police probably won’t do anything to actually help; however, the police identity theft report itself is an invaluable and often required part of clearing up your credit information resulting from identity theft.

Step Five

Contact the three major credit bureaus in writing and request they delete the information that is the result of identity theft. Identify the information clearly and include a copy of the police report and identity theft affidavit to prove your request is valid.

Step Six

Contact each creditor involved and close all accounts that are the result of identity theft. As you did earlier, include a copy of the police report and identity theft affidavit. When you close the accounts also ask the lender to send you all the documentation it has about the account. This will later help with the investigation of the identity theft.

Step Seven

The final step to correctly report identity theft is to set an extended fraud alert on your credit reports. This alert is valid for seven years and works well to prevent future theft of your identity from occurring during that time.


Not all identity theft can be corrected in this way but the more simple case can be. If the above steps to report identity theft fail or if more complicated issues arise, such as criminal identity theft or mortgage identity theft, you should contact an attorney to assist you.

How to Prevent Identity Theft

Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in history but it is relatively easy to prevent identity theft in most cases.  Millions of consumers fall victim to it every year and regrettably, the effects of identity theft are significant.  Many victims of identity theft are so traumatized they often report symptoms of mental and emotional distress similar to victims of violent crime.

The good news is that it is easy to prevent identity theft from happening to you.  Here are a few tips to stop identity theft before it ever occurs:

  • Use only secure Internet connections, websites, and browsers
  • Never open an email originating from an unknown source
  • Never click a link or open an attachment send to you by email
  • Use different passwords for different websites and make sure the passwords are too long and complicated to guess or decipher
  • Use security questions and answers for online websites to which you enroll
  • For online purchases use a credit card rather than a debit card
  • Always use software such as virus protection, firewalls, malware protection, and spam filters; even on smartphones and tablet computers
  • When possible use cash to pay for purchases
  • Never give out personal information over the telephone unless you initiated the call and are 100% certain you are giving it to a trusted company
  • Never carry you social security card in your wallet
  • Don’t disclose your social security number to anyone unless absolutely required
  • Carefully review all your financial records and billing statements every month to watch for unauthorized charges
  • Obtain your free Annual Credit Report once a year to check for unauthorized accounts opened in your name

Taking all of the above steps will prevent identity theft most of the time though it won’t prevent it all.  Even so, use caution in disclosing your personal information and you will be far less likely to become a victim than someone who is less guarded. The simple fact is that you are your own best defense to prevent identity theft.  If your identity does get stolen there are several steps you can take to restore your identity though it is better to avoid identity theft in the first place.

How to Restore Your Identity

If your identity has been stolen there are steps you can take to restore your identity, your credit, and your good name.  There are also steps you can take to stop debt collectors and creditors from collecting debt that is the result of identity theft.

The first step to restore your identity is to contact the creditors and collection agencies and let them know the debt is the result of identity theft.  Make this contact in writing and do not try this if you authorized the debt or received any benefit from the debt.  Lying to get out of a debt that is legitimately yours could subject you to a criminal prosecution for perjury.

Your next step to restore your identity is to contact the credit bureaus and instruct them to cease any further reporting of the identity theft debt.  Again, make this contact in writing and do not lie or seek to mislead the credit bureaus.  You should also request a fraud alert to prevent any future thefts of your identity from occurring.  Renew the fraud alert with the credit bureaus every 90 days for at least a year or request an extended fraud alert once you have fully prepared an identity theft report.  You should also obtain your credit reports at least once each year just to be sure there isn’t other fraudulent activity taking place.  In most cases, credit monitoring services are not worth the cost so stay away from them.  Credit fraud alerts and personal diligence on your part in protecting your private information are generally sufficient to stop future identity theft from occurring.

In most cases, restoring your identity will require you to, among other things, complete an Identity Theft Affidavit and file a police report.  Do both immediately and include these documents with your letters to the creditors, debt collectors, and credit bureaus.

Restoring your identity after a theft can be a time-consuming and difficult job.  Taking these steps will help you restore your identity and protect your good name. They will even protect you from future theft.  Take back control of your identity.

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