10 Things I Have Learned as a Victim of Identity Theft

You can do everything right and still become a victim of identity theft. There are untrustworthy people who have access to your information, and in this day and age of technology, it is an easy crime to commit, with damaging consequences only to the victims.

There is never a break. You cannot take a break when you discover that you are a victim of identity theft. You have no choice but to be constantly on the ball, either making calls or sending correspondence to clear your name. It is a snowball that you have to be way out in front of in order to minimize the damage.

Erroneous information will override your actual information on your credit report. You may think that your credit report reflects you and that changing any of the information on there would be a difficult task-nope, it’s actually very easy to override your information with that of a criminal. The criminal who used my information used it in conjunction with her actual identifying information. So her previous places of employment, showed up in my employment history…places she lived, showed up as places I lived…phone numbers, were listed as my contact information…you get the picture. 

Live in a community where the police department includes a detective bureau or a detective. If I didn’t happen to live in a community with a detective bureau who had dedicated officers looking into my case, I do not believe the criminal in my case would have been apprehended and eventually sentenced for the crime. If I ever move, a community must have a detective bureau. 

The importance of taking detailed notes and mailing everything certified. Criminals typically don’t try your identity out with one or two entities; they will use it repeatedly in an attempt to access goods and services, whatever is there for the taking. In my case, the criminal even took out a subscription with the local newspaper-nothing is off limits. You are going to be calling the credit bureaus (multiple times), and each and every company the thief came in contact while using your information (multiple times). The entities will turn to you to provide information proving your identity. It is a back and forth process, a timed one at that, and since you don’t uniformly discover all of the fraudulent activity, it is usually staggered so it is of the utmost importance to keep detailed information in order to keep some semblance of order when clearing your name, and ensuring you meet the deadlines of submitting required documentation.

File a police report. I had to supply a copy of my police report for each and every instance of identity theft. The other document that was almost always required was a FTC (Federal Trade Commission) affidavit. This document goes into a little more detail about the circumstances surrounding the identity theft. Don’t be surprised if you supply these documents, and you are provided a company’s affidavit to fill out as well.

You may seek the guidance or resources of a government entity and you will quickly discover that nobody knows where to direct you. You will be tossed around from agency to agency. One agency tells you to go here, another tells you to go there. None of the agencies know what the other is doing, and none of them have been any remote of help to me, except the detective bureau in the local police department. 

Freeze your credit immediately upon discovering that you are a victim. Originally, I hesitated to do this, even though a criminal had destroyed my reports, for some reason I felt as if a freeze would tarnish it as well, so I placed a fraud alert. I did eventually freeze my report; this does seem like the only true way these days to prevent thieves from infiltrating your report…however, I have learned that fraudulent inquiries will continue to show up.

Credit reports are not established at a certain age, rather they are established when credit is created. This is how children are discovering fraudulent accounts on their credit report later in life. Companies that have weak or non-existent due diligence procedures are extending credit to criminals on children’s nonexistent credit.  I strongly support all children having their credit frozen until the time when they need to access it-this option is not available in all states, and should be. Until this is an established practice, check your children’s credit to ensure they are not victims.

Be prepared to be treated like you are trying to get out of something. As a victim of identity theft you are immediately thrusted in the position of having to defend yourself, having to prove you are who you say you are. I recall a collection company that I spoke with after receiving a notice that a fraudulent account was in default. Knowing the drill, I explained to the collection company that I was a victim of identity theft and asked what documentation I needed to submit, and they responded by aggressively questioning if I was really was a victim. I cannot convey how maddening that moment is. Companies treat you like you are trying to get out of something. It was like this with nearly each and every entity. These are huge national companies, companies you very well may do business with. They lack the sophistication (or don’t put safeguards in place) to prevent identity theft, excuse themselves from the issue by claiming themselves also as victims, then turn to you and treat you like you have the time to invest in creating a scheme in order to get out of paying for a good or service. It is an amazing juxtaposition to be going through a crime as a victim, and having to defend, explain, and document how you are not a thief. All the while you are at the mercy of these companies, the exact same entities who allowed this to occur to you in the first place.