Credit After ID Theft-Guest Post by Chris Holdheide
After an identity thief has gotten your information and ruined your credit, you must start down the road of repairing it. Before you can start, however, you need to obtain copies of your credit reports from all three major credit reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. The good news is that, as a victim of identity theft, you are entitled to get free copies of your credit reports in addition to the ones you get once every 12 months.
Once you have your credit reports in hand, you must then start the process of combing through them for errors. Identity thieves can change all sorts of information on your credit reports, such as your address, phone number, email addresses, and so on. These thieves will also run up credit cards, bank accounts, loans, and anything else that they can on your credit.
So how do you fix errors on your credit reports when you find them? While it sounds like a daunting task, it isn’t as hard as you might think. But, it will be time consuming, so don’t expect things to be removed overnight. You will have to follow these steps for disputing items and follow up with them afterward:
Step 1: Make A List
As you go through your credit reports, make a list of the errors you find. Include all changes in addresses that you didn’t make, accounts that you didn’t open (such as credit cards), and any other errors that you find. You should have a separate list for each credit report, because they all might have different information on them.
Step 2: Writing Your Disputes
The very best way to dispute any error on your credit report is to do it in writing. You need to list anything on your report(s) that you feel is wrong, such as changes in address, credit cards, loans, etc. While you can find dispute letters all over the Internet, I recommend the sample letter that is on the Federal Trade Commission’s website.
Along with your dispute, you should include any supporting documentation that you have and think will be helpful in assisting credit reporting agencies with their investigation. For example, if you have statements from your bank that prove you have been a victim of ID theft, include them. Include police reports along with the dispute letters as well. DO NOT send in originals; instead send copies of the original documents.
I recommend that you also make copies of everything you send to each different credit reporting agency. Get a file folder or a large manila envelope to keep everything in one place and write down the date you mailed out your disputes. Keep track of anyone that you speak to regarding the disputes, such as their names, dates, times, customer service numbers, etc. The more detailed information you keep, the better you will be if problems arise.
Secret Tip: Make sure that in your dispute letters you ask the credit reporting company to send out any errors that they find and remove from your credit to anyone that has pulled your credit in the last six months. This includes any lenders, credit card companies, and can save you a lot of hassle if you are being denied credit, because of false information.
Step 3: Investigation
Once the credit reporting agencies receive your dispute, they must investigate each item according to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) within 30 days, unless they believe that your dispute is wrong or that you are simply trying to dispute everything on your credit. As part of their investigation, they are also required to send any documentation they receive and findings they have to the company that placed the item in dispute on your credit report.
When the credit agencies have the investigation completed, they will then send you their results in writing along with a free copy of your credit report that would reflect any changes.
If something is removed from your credit, the company that put it there cannot re-list that item unless it can be verified that item is actually your debt.
If anything is determined to be a debt you incurred, the credit-reporting agency will send you the information for that item in writing as well. This information will include the name, address, phone number and any other contact information for the company or person placing the item on your report.
Step 4: Completing Your Credit Protection
Once you have finished your disputes with any errors you find, I recommend that you then enroll in a protection program that will monitor your information and alert you if anyone (including you) tries to use your credit or name for anything credit related.
There are plenty of great companies out there to choose from. Many companies offer several different levels of protection and you can easily customize the one that is right for you. Don’t wait until this happens again to protect everything you have worked for. Visit my website www.StumbleForward.com for more information about strategies on how to get back on track and identity theft protection.
For those targeted by identity thieves, regaining your credit and your information back can be a hassle if you don’t know what to do. This is why Chris Holdheide has built Stumble Forward to help those that have been victims of ID theft as well as other forms of financial problems. If you want to learn more about protecting your identity, visit www.StumbleForward.com.