Repairing Your Credit

After completing the initial steps to help secure your credit after discovering you’ve been the victim of identity theft, you’ll need to begin the task of repairing your credit from the damage done by the crimes.  This will include contacting the businesses and accounts that were affected by the ID theft and alerting them to the extend of the losses.  As well as disputing any errors on your credit reports with the credit bureaus and the businesses who have reported the fraudulent activity to the credit agencies.   You may also want to consider asking the credit bureaus to block certain information from your credit report.  This article will discuss all of these topics and help you with your plan to begin getting your credit repaired after identity theft has occurred.

1. Inspect Your Credit Report

You should already have received copies of all three credit reports, as part of your initial recovery steps. Your credit report contains a large amount of personal identifying information about your financial status as well as your birth date, current and former addresses, employment information and much more.  This information is used by creditors to determine your eligibility for receiving credit cards, mortgages, auto loans, jobs, and insurance.  Check all of personal details as it’s vital that this information be up to date and accurate.  Name, Address, Employers, Birth date, & Social Security Number should all be checked for accuracy.

Credit Report Errors

If you notice errors on any of your credit reports, such as accounts that were fraudulently opened or debts you didn’t charge, you can file a dispute with the credit reporting bureaus as well as the fraud departments of the companies that reported the errors.

Unique_banner_300x250You can ask the businesses, as well as the credit agencies to block any disputed information from your credit reports.  By law, the credit bureaus must block any accounts or fraudulent transactions if you have been the victim of identity theft.

Obtain Theft Documentation

When you begin contacting creditors to make corrections, request they mail you copies of the documents that were used by the ID thief to open lines of credit, accounts or make fraudulent charges.  You can use this sample contact letter to get in touch with businesses and request documents the thief used.  You will also want to know information such as when and where the illegal transactions happened.  Be sure to send the businesses a copy of your Identity Theft Report and any proof of identity they might require.

2. Disputing Credit Report Errors

Once you’ve found any reporting errors which resulted from the ID theft, you will want to send letters to each of the three credit bureaus as well as the companies involved.  Write a letter to all three credit agencies explaining that you have been a victim of identity theft.  List all of the errors you were able to find on each credit report.  Include copies of your credit reports, highlighting the errors.  Request that the credit agency remove the information on the reports which a result of the fraud.  You can use this sample dispute letter as an example.

The credit agency is required to send you written notification if your credit report changed due to the investigation of the business’.  They must also inform you if they put any information back onto your credit report.

Be sure to keep good records of the dates you send letters or correspond with the credit bureaus.  Make copies of all documents for your records.

As you send out letters to the credit agencies, they will begin contacting the business’ included in your dispute letter.  The business’ then have 30 days in which to investigate the claim and report back any errors they find so your credit report can be corrected.

3. Disputing Errors with Business’

In addition to sending dispute letters to the credit agencies, you will also want to dispute the fraudulent activities with any business’ that are involved.  This is different from alerting them that you have been a victim of identity theft and requesting documents as we discussed earlier.  With this step, you will write a letter to the fraud department of each business where fraud occurred.  You can use this sample business dispute letter as a template.  You may also want to include a copy of your Identity Theft Report with your dispute letter.  Some companies may require additional forms or information to file a fraud dispute.  Also send a copy of your credit report with your letter.  Cover up any information on the report that is not relevant to your fraud dispute.

Request that the business send you confirmation via mail that the fraudulent information has been removed.  Keep this letter in the event you notice new fraudulent activity on those accounts in the future.  This is also a good time to change any account pin numbers or online passwords associated with with those business’.  These steps apply for fraudulent charges on any of your existing accounts or for any new accounts that were opened as part of the fraud.

4. Blocking Fraud Information On Your Reports

You have the right to request that the credit reporting agencies block any errors on your credit reports that were a result of identity theft.  By law, the credit reporting bureaus must comply with these consumer requests, providing they are found to be valid errors caused by fraud.  This is different from filing disputes for fraudulent information, where the offending items can be removed by the credit agency once they determine them to be legitimate errors because of fraud.

To request items be blocked from showing on your credit reports, mail a copy of your Identity Theft Report (ITR)to each credit bureau.  You can use this sample letter to assist. Be sure to include proof of your identity with your letter.  Point out which information on your credit report was a result of ID theft and these were not approved account openings or transactions.  Request that the agency block the information you have cited.

The credit agency may accept your ITR and then block the information you requested.  They can also deny your request and ask you for additional information about the identity theft.  If the agency is still not satisfied with your proof, they can reject your request within 15 days and must inform you if they are unwilling to block the requested information.  However, you are allowed to resubmit your ITR.

5. Request Business’ Block Information

Once you inform a business that you have been a victim of identity theft, they can no longer report information on those accounts to the three credit reporting agencies.  They are also not allowed to send accounts involved with the fraud to a collection agency.  You must contact these business’ to prevent them from sending your debt to collections or to continue reporting delinquency on those accounts.

Write a letter to each business explaining the circumstances surrounding the identity theft.  Send them proof of your identity and copy of your credit report & ITR.  Keep records of all letters sent, including dates and copies of all material.  Consider signing up for id theft protection as well.  It’s a good proactive measure to help keep track of any potential damage done by the fraud.

 Next Step:  Your Rights as an Identity Theft Victim