ITRC Fact Sheet 105
Over the years, the ITRC has developed strong, working relationships with law enforcement, governmental agencies and businesses. In doing so, we have drawn upon some well-documented laws of effective communication. They aren’t difficult, and anyone can use them effectively.
Organize your thoughts prior to any conversation. Identity theft cases can be complicated. ITRC Fact Sheet FS 112 – Enhancing Identity Theft Victim and Investigator Communications will help you to be succinct and focused. Write down what points you want to cover and what you want to accomplish.
- Prioritize your goals. If you have more than one, limit the issues so that you don’t dilute your efforts. Make sure your listener understands that you have several issues and the order of their importance. Otherwise, they may deal with the little, easy-to-fix items and ignore the bigger ones.
- Have a fallback position. You may not always get exactly what they want. What will you settle for? What is your bottom line? You don’t need to reveal it to the listener; just keep it in mind as he or she offers possible resolutions to your problem.
- Analyze your listener’s priorities and situation. What resistances, limitations or predispositions might they have? What will they need to hear from you to conclude that what you are saying is true?
- Speak only with decision makers. If the person you are speaking with cannot help, respectfully ask for someone who can.
Anger never works; people stop listening. You want to engage this person and convert him or her into an ally. If you are angry, delay your call until you can redirect your anger into positive, calm and effective communication. Be someone who acknowledges any attempt to help you. A “thank you” goes a long ways toward winning allies.
- A conversation that just blows off steam only causes resentment and alienates your listener. This will also hurt future relationships with that person.
- Only share what they need to know to solve your problem. People will likely stop listening and be less helpful if you talk about things not directly related to your issue.
- Try to anticipate what the person will need from you and have it ready.
- Allow the person you are speaking an opportunity to answer a question that you ask. This ensures that you are actually getting answers to your questions and that you do not interrupt them with another question or observation, which may irritate them and make them less helpful.
- If you ask a question, don’t accept an answer that doesn’t answer the question, or that is an answer you don’t understand. Acknowledge their answer (confirming you heard them), then ask your question again. For example:
You – “I have a problem. You are trying to collect money on an account I never opened. How do I remove my name from an account opened fraudulently in my name?”
Them – “We just want to know how soon you plan to pay up.”
You – “I understand that you normally deal with people who haven’t paid their bills. My case is different. This is a case of identity theft. I didn’t open this account. How do I remove my name from this account?”
- Develop a relationship. Be respectful. Try to work with whoever is helping you and allow them to understand what you are dealing with. For example, when speaking with a credit issuer representative you can say, “The collection agency said that your company has to clear me. I spoke with one of your customer-service reps, and she said the collection agency has to do it. I’m caught in the middle here. I didn’t open the account and I can’t find the right person to help me. Can you help me sort out this mess?”
- Don’t be an obstructionist. A conversation isn’t a conversation without an exchange of information and cooperation from both parties.
- Recognize the limitations of the situation. In most cases of identity theft, determining who the criminal is and having that person arrested is unlikely. Be realistic in setting your goals by sticking to clearing the fraudulent accounts and restoring your identity first and worrying about the criminal after.
This fact sheet should not be used in lieu of legal advice. Any requests to reproduce this material, other than by individual victims for their own use, should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.