If Someone Does Steal Your Identity, Are There Ways To Clean It Up?

If someone does steal your identity, are there ways to clean it up? Yes, unfortunately it's a lengthy process, especially if someone has been hit fairly hard by identity theft. Yes, unfortunately it is a...

Yes, unfortunately it is a lengthy process, especially if someone has been hit fairly hard by identity theft.

"Statistics say it can take an average person 186 hours and up to $800 to clear identity theft, and that entails sending letters to the credit bureaus and creditors or collection agencies to start the dispute process," says Lori Lamb, a credit correction and education supervisor with Springboard Non-Profit Consumer Credit Management. She has worked in the credit industry for 12 years. Identity theft can include credit card theft, mail fraud and even buying cars and property illegally.

As the website Bankrate.com says, identity theft victims do not make the mess, but they do have to clean it up.

"There's no one who can do it other than the consumer," says Maxine Sweet, vice president of public education for Experian, on their website. "Yes, they are a victim. Yes, it is a terrible crime, but there is no on else who can do it."

According to the 2005 Identity Fraud Survey Report conducted by Javelin Strategy and Research for the Better Business Bureau, an estimated 9.3 million Americans suffer from identity theft. There are ways to make your credit good again, but know that it will be time consuming and frustrating. First thing is to keep an eye on your credit report. Know what your score is at all times, and get a free copy of your credit report from the three credit bureaus each year. Visit www.annualcreditreport.com to find out how to obtain a copy.

Next, contact The Federal Trade Commission and request a standardized fraud declaration report that victims can file with banks and creditors stating that you are a victim of credit fraud. Contact every account that was opened illegally, and ask them what to do next because a credit agency will not remove inaccurate information from a credit report unless a creditor says to.

"A credit agency simply records information sent by creditors; it does not judge the accuracy of the data it stores," advises bankrate.com.

Once one credit report agency is called and notified of a fraud case, then they must contact the other two agencies. The toll free call will place a fraud alert on the victim's credit report at each agency within 24 hours. A fraud alert simply tells future creditors that illegal action has accrued on the victim's credit, and no new credit can be approved.

"The purpose of alerts is to help prevent an impostor from applying and getting new credit," says Lamb.

When contacting agencies and notifying them of what occurred, document every detail. When writing letters, send them certified with written receipt and keep copies so you can keep track of every document sent, says Lamb. Keep a well-organized file so you know who you spoke with regarding these fraud accounts, the status of them, what the agencies want from you as far as proof, and what needs to happen next.

After this, identity victims need to monitor their credit reports closely and continue to dispute inaccurate information.

"Be persistent, stay after it and get all the information you can," says Lamb.

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