Debt Collectors Can Help During Identity Theft Crisis – Important Steps to Take For Identity Fraud Victims
Thieves are finding more and more ways to steal people’s identities. From the recently surfaced conversation-recording Smartphone virus to the traditional ATM skimmers (devices used to capture debit card numbers), people are falling into serious financial troubles. Many who fall victim to identity theft aren’t immediately aware of their situation. Nearly 41 percent of victims learn about identity theft from a collection agency, creditor or law enforcement agency trying to take action against them, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center.
If you get a surprise call from a debt collection agency, it may be the first sign of a bigger problem. Many people first find out that their identity has been compromised when they receive a call from a debt collector. If this happens to you, get as much information from the collection agency as possible. Ask for the collector’s name, agency, phone and fax numbers, along with their referring merchant’s information. Make sure to get the account number, when and where it was opened, all of the charges on it and the application information, if available.
Here are some additional steps to take to get your name in the clear:
1. File a police report. Filing an official report infers that you are in fact a victim and not the thief. Make copies of the police report and send them to the collection agency and merchant.
2. Add a fraud alert. Contact Equifax, TransUnion and Experian, and request a fraud alert. TransUnion’s fraud victim assistance line is 800-680-7289, or go to www.transunion.com. Equifax is 800-685-1111, www.equifax.com. Experian is 888-397-3742, www.experian.com. Alerts are free and last up to 90 days each, but they can be renewed every 90 days for up to three years. This will protect the integrity of your credit report.
3. Contact the Federal Trade Commission. Fill out the ID theft affidavit from the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov/idtheft or call 877-438-4338. The report contains important information about identity crises and can be sent to the collection agency and retailer for further proof.
4. Speak to the fraud department. Keep in mind that the collection agency might be working on behalf of a retailer. If so, contact the retailer and request to speak to their fraud department as they can probably give you further information or instructions.
If you or anyone you know has become a victim of identity theft, take these vital steps to prove your innocence and clear up your finances!