As millions of Americans discover annually, identity theft is above all else, a huge pain in the neck. It can be stressful and expensive. For many, the process of mitigating their case is above all else, time consuming. According to a recent Javelin study, the average identity theft requires 33 hours of a victim’s time to effectively deal with the fallout. The best way to bring this number down is to understand that you as the victim need to have your things in order. Organization and effective note taking are the best methods to limiting the amount of your life you will need to dedicate to cleaning up the damage caused by identity theft.

The amount of clean up that will be required obviously varies based on the amount and type of fraud one may be experiencing, but nearly all identity theft requires assertive action on the part of the victim to notify all the various involved parties (banks, creditors, government, law enforcement, etc.). Different entities will of course have their own interests to protect and motivations to act or not act a certain way. You might call the same creditor three different times and receive three different sets of instructions or pieces of information, which can be incredibly frustrating. It is imperative for a victim of identity theft to have all related documentation (affidavits, credit reports, police reports) readily available to whomever might need to see them in order to clear the victim of responsibility for any of the damage caused.

It is also essential for the victim to keep thorough notes detailing all interactions they’ve had relating to the cleanup of their case. Who they spoke to, what their title and affiliation was, and what instructions they gave. That way if the victim ever has to contact the same creditor or bank more than once (as is almost always the case), in the event they get conflicting instructions or positions from two different employees of the same entity they can immediately say, “Hey wait a minute, Peggy from accounting told me last week that I had to do x, not y.” Organized and thorough notes will save you from having to repeat steps, re-request necessary documents, and lends a great deal of credibility when you can produce written evidence of completing a certain step or interacting with a certain entity.

If you become one of the unfortunate millions of Americans affected by this crime each year, horde as much information about what happened as you can, organize it, and keep detailed notes. In the end it will save you countless hours of work, and will very likely be the difference between a complete mitigation, and dealing with lingering negative effects of your identity theft for an extended period of time.

If you found this information helpful, you may want to consider taking part in the Identity Theft Resource Center’s Anyone3 fundraising campaign.  For more information or to donate please visit