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Identity Theft: The road back

Written By: Daryl Campbell

A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine mentioned that one of his co-workers recently recovered his stolen identity. I asked how long the process took. “Only two years” he replied. Compared to the six year nightmare suffered by one of my business associates, “only” maybe appropriate. However like most victims of identity theft, my friend’s co-worker probably thought in terms of “when”. As in, “When will I get my life back?”

Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a non profit consumer organization, reported that identity theft victims spend on average 175 hours trying to recover their identity, often over a period of years. Factor in out of pocket expenses which usually total, usually over $1,500 according to the Federal Trade Commission and recovery gets painfully magnified.

What are the steps to identity restoration? It starts with obtaining a police report. You’re going to need it for contacting the many and I mean many different agencies and organizations, including the Social Security Administration, The Federal Trade Commission, all of your financial institutions, the 3 major credit bureaus, the Passport Office, The Department of Motor Vehicles, the Post Office, and other law enforcement agencies as well as the Medical Information Bureau, since identity thieves now target hospitals and doctor’s offices. All of these places must be sent a fraud notification alert.

It is vital that you contact other law enforcement agencies. The databases of local and federal authorities must be searched to ensure no criminal activity exists on your identity.

Concerning your financial institutions, get them to cancel your credit cards and close your bank accounts. Find out from your bank about any suspicious activity, such as accounts tampered with or opened fraudulently. Reopen new bank accounts with password verification.

When contacting the credit bureaus make sure your credit report reflects the identity theft and gets flagged with a fraud alert. Dealing with all these organizations requires constant follow up. Make sure you keep a record of who you talk to along with the date, time and action taken. Many victims received assurances from the various bureaus and agencies that the matter would be resolved only to find the identity theft remained and that were still liable. If you do this yourself, be diligent. Constant follow up all the way to the end.

This also requires knowing your rights. According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act of 1992, you must be told not only what’s in your file but if that information is being used against you. The Federal Trade Commission recently expanded the rights available to victims of identity theft including your right to get negative information due to fraud blocked from your records.

Stay Away from “credit repair “companies”. No matter what they advertise, there’s usually nothing they can do to help you with identity theft. Some of them even offer to help you
apply for credit under a new identity. Hello? When trying to eliminate fraud from your record you don’t want to create more fraud!

Advise the utility companies. Many identity thieves open telephone accounts, purchase cable television or establish credit with the gas & electric companies. It’s not just bank accounts and credit cards.

If necessary get counseling. Identity theft can be a shattering experience not just economically but emotionally. Many victims feel ashamed and humiliated. It’s not their fault of course but the feelings remain. A network of support groups and counselors exists if you need it.

The road back from identity theft can take time, money, and cause much stress and pain . But with follow up, support and belief that the nightmare will end…the nightmare WILL end.

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About the Author

Daryl Campbell owns and operates WintheMarket.com a home based company that helps people build and protect their internet business.

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