What to do about a stolen identity
Tribune Content Agency Q:
My identity was stolen to open a Comcast account. Since I didn’t pay the bill it was sent to a collections company. Now I have a record on my credit report. Comcast and the collections company tell me I have to dispute with the credit reporting agencies as they can’t help me. Is it true that I have to go through the credit reporting agencies? I did file a police report.
Also, do you think it is worth paying a company to help me clean this up? I have no debt and, until this, very high credit scores. A:
We’re sorry to hear this happened to you, though with the spate of stolen credit card news over the past few weeks (Target alone had up to 100 million customers’ information stolen, and Neiman Marcus just announced that more than a million customers’ information is at risk), it isn’t surprising.
But for those who have gone through the experience of having their identity stolen, you know it’s frustrating and it can take a huge amount of time and effort to clear up your credit file. And being thorough is extremely important.
It’s great that you got a police report, and it will be helpful for the next steps. You can officially dispute the information and attach a copy of the police report to the affidavit you’re submitting to the credit reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) to show that the account was not yours. Also, submit any other documentation at this time, like documents showing your home address doesn’t match the service address for Comcast.
You want to send as much information as you have that demonstrates that this account was fraudulently opened and should be removed from your credit file. Keep copies of everything you send and never send original documents.
Be sure to get a copy of your credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies to make sure there aren’t more accounts open in your name as well.
You can hire someone to help you, or you can just go to each of the credit reporting bureau’s websites and file a dispute resolution form. You’ll be able to attach a scanned copy of the police report, and then the negative information should be removed in 30 to 60 days.
You might also want to put a fraud alert on your social security number, which you’re entitled to do since your identity has been compromised. This is a great safeguard that will help you for the next 90 days. Once you file for a fraud alert with one of the credit reporting bureaus, all of the others will pick it up as well. A fraud alert requires a prospective creditor to contact you first by phone before issuing credit in order to make sure that it is you applying.
Finally, you should look into signing up for a cred- it-monitoring product. The digital economy makes it easy for people to steal your personal information and then use that to get new credit, strip your bank account of cash, buy a car or a house, etc. If you sign up for a credit-monitoring service, you’ll be able to freeze and unfreeze your credit easily and set up alerts any time your credit profile changes.
If you are one of those Target or Neiman Marcus shoppers, these stores are offering free credit monitoring for up to a year. You might want to consider taking advantage of it, just in case. For more information, contact Kathryn Weber through her Web site, www.redlotusletter.com.
(c) 2013 Kathryn Weber. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.