When identity theft first became a recognized crime, it looked a lot different than it does today. Back then, even as recently as the 1980s, a thief had to get access to your physical documentation, your actual checkbook, or even your credit card information in order to do a lot of damage with your information. While the internet has made this crime far easier than in the past, the positive flip side is that law enforcement officials are far more knowledgeable and proactive about it than they were when these confusing cases first appeared. New laws have also been written since those days, meaning the police now have concrete charges they can file against a thief.
However, don’t be fooled into thinking that the greater awareness and the higher numbers of cases mean that you don’t have your work cut out for you when it comes to clearing your name after an identity theft has occurred. It can still be a lengthy, although more straightforward, process. This Fact Sheet from the Identity Theft Resource Center can get you started.
If you’re faced with the unfortunate task of clearing up identity theft, here are the steps you should take:
1. Paint a complete picture of how far the crime has spread, as well as make detailed notes of the steps you’ve taken. Keep a notebook with a record of all correspondence and communications, and make sure that phone conversations you have with law enforcement, credit card companies, your bank, or other institutions are all logged in your notebook. Be sure to get the name and contact information of the person you spoke with, and on what date.
2. File a police report with not only your local police, but any other jurisdictions if criminal activity occurred in another city or state. This police report is vital for clearing your name, as it is a legal document in which you’ve stated you are not responsible for the activity that the thief is conducting with your stolen information. The hardest part about the police report is filing it when you think a family member may be the guilty party. It can be tempting to sweep it under the rug, and you may even be pressured by relatives to look the other way and handle it quietly, but the damage to your credit and your identifying information can be too severe to agree to that. Remember that identity theft can affect your finances, your ability to get a job or a loan, and even your criminal record.
3. Keep track of everything in one secure location. Your correspondence, your police report, and all receipts or statements that show the fraudulent activity will become part of your official case log. While you’re taking detailed notes and keeping up with each step of the process, remember to designate a separate portion of your notebook for your restitutional log; this is where you’ll keep all of your expenses related to this case, everything from phone calls, mileage for driving to meet with officials, lost time from work that you had to use to clear up the issue, even bail money or court costs if there were criminal proceedings against you before the issue was resolved. All of these things will be counted in the restitution when the thief is caught and held accountable for his or her actions.
Remember that organizations like the non-profit ITRC are here to help you through the process, so don’t hesitate to reach out for information and advice on clearing your identity after it has been stolen. You can call our toll-free call center 24 hours a day at 888-400-5530.