You are at the register at the store and your credit or debit card payment reads “NOT APPROVED”. You assume it is a machine error and ask the cashier to run it again, but the payment is declined again. Your stomach drops when you check your balance on your phone and your account has been decimated by fraudulent charges. Resolving an identity theft is a team effort, but who is your team exactly?
Phone Call #1 – Damage Control
Call the companies which you know accounts were fraudulently opened and/or credit or debit cards were used. Before things get worse, you need to try to freeze the accounts and let the companies know that you were a victim of identity theft. Also, let them know that you will be contacting them again when a report is created and a case is opened. Lastly, change any and all passwords you can think of to block unwanted future access.
Phone Call #2 – Damage Assessment
Now you should start talking to Experian, Transunion, or Equifax. You only have to create a fraud alert with one of the companies. That company alerts the other two. Next, get your credit report. You can get a free credit report annually at annualcreditreport.com. For the final portion of the damage assessment, list any and all transactions and fraudulent accounts. You will need this information later.
Phone Call #3 – FTC
You may not be aware of this, but identity theft is a federal crime and the Federal Trade Commision (FTC) has your back. You can contact the FTC to report identity theft at 1-877-438-4338 or online here. If you decide to use the FTC website, you will get an Identity Theft Recovery Plan tailored to your situation after answering some basic questions about your case.
Phone Call #4 – Local Authorities
This step may be considered optional, but it is recommended. If all you get out of it is a police report, it is still a win. The more documentation, the better. If you decide to contact local authorities, you can call for advice, but you will most likely need to go to the police station in person. Do not forget to bring:
- An official government-issued ID.
- Any reports you have received during this process so far.
- Two pieces of mail showing your address.
While there is plenty of action to be taken at the federal level, you still may need guidance through this process from someone with knowledge of Florida state laws. If credit bureaus are reluctant to remedy your credit report or collectors are insisting that you pay debts which are associated with your identity theft case, you need the help of an experienced debt defense lawyer in Florida. Contact Elias Dsouza of Plantation, Florida for help defending yourself against debt collectors and credit bureaus. He can help you put your debt issues in the past.