As Arizona credit lawyers, we deal with credit reports that have are damaged by identity thieves, on a daily basis. People typically discover about their stolen identities when they get dunning letters and telephone calls from creditors with whom they have never done business. Sometimes, people learn about it when they apply for credit with what they believe to be good credit scores only to learn that it has been torpedoed by unpaid bills that don’t belong to them.
In any event, with identity theft at a record all time high and with no end in sight, we believe that you must take precautions to avoid it.
How identity theft happens
To open credit in your name, an identity thief typically needs:
- Your name
- Home address
- Social Security Number and/or
- Your birthdate.
With these bits of information, your credit is free for the taking! Protect yourself and your information.
The most common ways that identity thieves can get your data:
- By leaving documents containing your personal information lying about;
- Throwing documents containing your personal information out instead of shredding it;
- Giving your personal information to persons who have no legitimate need for it.
What you need to do if your identity has been stolen
If your identity has been stolen, you should take these actions immediately:
- File a Police Report. The police report is going to be your golden ticket out of this mess. Without a police report, no credit reporting agency or creditor is going to take you seriously and you will not get very far in getting your credit cleaned up. Did you know that a significant number of identity theft cases involve one family member stealing the identity of another family member? It makes a police report a little more difficult to obtain, emotionally. However, you must remember that without the police report, your credit will not only remain damaged, but you may well be held responsible for the debts incurred by the identity thief.
- Put a freeze on your credit reports. Call one of the credit reporting agencies and tell it that your identity has been stolen. That one credit reporting agency will put a block or a freeze on your credit report. This means that no creditor may open credit in your name without personally communicating with you. Also note that by calling one of the credit reporting agencies and reporting that your identity has been stolen, it will contact the others.
- Write dispute letters to each credit reporting agency that is reporting bogus information and tell them those items do not belong to you. (We do this for free for our clients).
- Contact the creditors of the bogus accounts, in writing, and let them know that these accounts are now yours.
How you can prevent the theft of your identity
- Buy a shredder and actually use it on documents containing your personal information before throwing it out;
- Never give your personal information out to someone unless they have a legitimate use for that information;
- Never share your personal information with others, in public places. You never know who is listening.
- Go to www.annualcreditreport.com and pull your credit reports once a year. Review them to make sure that everyone on it is legitimate.
- Stop posting your birthday on Facebook. Sorry, but you are already sharing too much information about yourself on line.
- Use a little common sense and think defensively.
We do this work free for our clients. Under the law, the Defendants have to pay our fees and costs. We will write the right dispute letters for you. If we are able to get your credit cleaned up at that point, we are happy to be of service at no charge. If we have to file a lawsuit, we are still happy to be of service to you at no charge. The defendant pays our fees.