In an information economy where electronic commerce is commonplace, people can complete business transactions easier than ever. In the past, transactions had to occur in person, but today they can occur quickly over the Internet.
Unfortunately, scammers have taken advantage of these recent changes to steal the identities of everyday consumers around the world by using the Internet to engage in anonymous transactions and purchase personal information. If you have fallen victim to identity theft, the good news is that recovery is certainly possible and thefts like these can be prevented from happening again.
Surveying the Damage
The first step to recovering from identity theft is fully understanding what was stolen. Identity-theft victims often have had their identities used falsely on several occasions, so simply responding to one problem isn't enough. A good place to start is by getting a detailed credit report from a reputable credit agency. This report should outline debts taken out in your name. Compare this information with your records, and note all suspicious items. When you find a debt item you don't recognize, get in touch with the lender to verify that the debt isn't something that you simply forgot about.
There may be credit report items that are improperly labeled, have been resolved, or were reported by mistake. If you discover a debt that you did not take out, make a note of it for future use. You should also check with major credit card agencies and banks to ensure that accounts and transactions are not taking place in your name without your knowledge.
Resolving Fraudulent Purchases
Once you have made a list of potential problems, the next step is to take action to solve them. Generally this should begin by making an appointment to meet with each company where the identity thief used your information to make a fraudulent purchase. Compare your photo identification with their records, and even ask for security tapes if the thief's visit was in person. Ask what options you have to minimize or even eliminate the debts owed to the company.
Often if goods haven't been delivered, or if the purchases represent small costs to the company, they may reduce the amount owed or even eliminate the debt. When this type of disaster happens, it never hurts to ask.
Paying the Damages
Most likely, you will still need to pay most debts taken out fraudulently in your name. Thankfully, there are many avenues you can utilize to eliminate many of these items. Major credit card companies often offer assurances in the event of fraud. When falling victim to identity theft, this can be especially helpful because the credit card company will assist with investigating the crime.
If the thief can be found, not only can the debts be assigned to him or her, but courts can also order the thief to pay additional restitution to you as a victim. Once you have dealt with the thief, you should change all of your passwords, close unnecessary accounts, and consider applying for a new social security number. After taking these steps, you should be on your way to permanent recovery from identity theft.