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Unbiased Financial Information Provided by Financial Finesse

The aftermath of identity theft can be as simple as a few calls to the credit bureaus or it can become a complicated nightmare that takes years to end. You can follow all the rules for reporting the crime and contacting creditors, but sometimes the problems just won't go away.

The costs of identity theft can include spending hundreds of dollars and hours of your time trying to clean up your credit history. An Identity Theft Resource Center® survey showed that the average amount of time and money spent by victims to regain their financial health was 59 hours and $631.

Victims of identity theft may get little help from authorities, who don't always have the resources to investigate these cases. With millions of cases reported each year, police and other agencies rarely get involved unless your case amounts to an exceptionally large theft.

Your first move towards recovery should be to arm yourself with the following documentation:

  • The police report filed when you learned of the identity theft.
  • An FTC recovery plan to help guide you through the process including reporting the theft to your creditors.
  • Copies of your credit report.
  • Documentation from creditors, such as copies of the credit application filled out by the thief.

Another smart step is to file a report with the FTC's Identity Theft Hotline by calling 1-877-IDTHEFT (1-877-438-4338). Also, be sure to place a fraud alert with each of the three major credit bureaus (TransUnion, Equifax and Experian). While this is designed to alert lenders to contact you before issuing new credit in your name, it doesn't always work. Some lenders ignore the alert, and new accounts may continue to be opened by the criminal.

Finally, request that all of your existing creditors code your accounts so that a password you select is required before changing the address, increasing your credit limit, etc. Make sure to keep a log of all your efforts - write down the date and time, with whom you spoke and what was discussed.

Some victims must also deal with abusive collection agencies that refuse to believe that someone else incurred the debt. Instead of getting assistance with the problem, they may be threatened with lawsuits and garnished wages. To combat this problem if it happens to you, send a copy of the police report. If one is not available, demand that they send you proof of the debt (which is required under The Fair Debt Collections Act). Once you receive this, you'll be able to demonstrate that the signature, address, etc. are not yours, and that therefore you are not responsible for the debt.

There are certain things you should definitely not do when trying to resolve your identity theft crisis:

  • Do not pay any bill or debt that is a result of fraud.
  • Do not cover any checks that were written or cashed fraudulently.
  • Do not file for bankruptcy without consulting with a professional.
  • Do not change your Social Security number (unless advised to do so by Social Security - a rare occurrence).
  • Do not be intimidated into paying any debt that you did not incur.

Going through identity theft recovery is emotionally draining. Many victims suffer symptoms similar to those of survivors of assault or other serious crimes. You may feel both helplessness and rage at your situation, as well as loss of financial security.

Seek counseling if necessary to help you cope with these feelings and try to find local support groups so you can talk to others that have been through the same experience.

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