Tip #10: Check Your Credit Score
You are more likely to notice problems and inconsistencies
if you check your credit score on a regular basis - at least
once a year and preferably three times a year. Be sure to
check your credit rating with each credit bureau, too. If you
notice anything odd or anything you don’t recognize (such as a
charge account you did not open) report it
Sometimes, these errors are caused by mistakes made at the
credit bureau, but they could be an indication that someone is
using your identity. In either case, such mistakes could
hurt your credit score. Fixing such errors improves your
If you think you have been the victim of identity theft,
take action at once:
1) Contact the three major credit bureaus and ask to speak
to the fraud department. Explain that you have been the
victim of identity theft (or believe you may have been) and ask
that an “alert” be placed on your file. This will let anyone
looking at your report know that you may have been the victim
of fraud. It will also mean that you will be alerted any
time a lender asks to look at your file - each time a lender
does look at your file, it may be an indication that the
identity thieves are trying to open a new account in your
When the lender sees that the person applying is not you,
they will deny the thieves credit and in most cases the
criminals will stop trying to access your identity. Most
alerts on your file last 90 or 180 days but you can extend this
period to several years by asking the credit agencies for an
extension of the “fraud alert” in writing.
In some states, you can even ask for a freeze to be placed
on your credit score and credit report which will prevent
anyone but yourself and those creditors you already have from
accessing your file. Any lenders the thieves contact to
set up a new account will be refused access and the thieves
will not be able to get any more money in your name.
You are entitled to a free copy of your credit report if you
have been the victim of identity theft. Be sure to take
advantage of this offer so that you can check exactly how your
credit has been affected. Dispute those items that are
2) Call the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at
1-877-438-4338. This is the special hotline that the FTC
has set up to help customers deal with fraud and identity
theft. You will be able to get up-to-date information
about your rights and advice as to what you can do to improve
your credit score and keep in safe in the future.
3) Contact the police. Identity theft is a crime and
you need to file a police report (be sure to keep a copy of
this report) so that you can help the police potentially catch
the criminals responsible. Contacting the police will
also give you a paper trail and proof that a crime has been
committed. Keeping a paper trail of the crime and your response
will make it easier for you to repair your credit if it has
been damaged by identity thieves.
4) Contact your creditors or any creditors that the identity
thieves have opened an account with. Ask to speak to the
security department and explain your predicament. You may need to have your accounts closed or at least your passwords changed to protect yourself.
You may also need to fill out a fraud affidavit to state that a crime has been committed - be sure to keep a copy of this form for your records. The security team of the creditors should be able to advise you as to what you can do. Be sure to note down who you contacted and when so that you have records of the steps you have taken to deal with the crime.
If you have been the victim of identity theft and you are deeply in debt to creditors you never contacted, you will not be held responsible for the charges - but you will have to prove that you have been the victim of identity theft, which is tricky since the thieves are using your name and claiming to be you.
It is a frustrating experience because lenders will want to
be paid and you will want to avoid paying for charges you did
not run up. Being persistent and keeping good proof that
you have been the victim of a crime will help to clear your
credit score. In the meantime, however, you will be faced
with a much lower credit rating than you deserve and you may
have to put off larger purchases that may require a loan.