A common problem for many Americans is credit fraud. Many people don’t know what to do if someone opened a credit card in your name and may experience panic. Keep your composure! There are steps to take to keep your credit safe and inform the people that need to know about identity theft. If you are concerned about this happening to you then you might consider employing the best credit monitoring service. With careful monitoring of your finances and your credit you can catch problems like this before they deal a significant amount of damage.
Here's How to Check If Someone Opened a Credit Card in Your Name – Take the Following 8 Steps
Provided below are the steps you should take in the event that you believe your identity has been stolen. If you believe this is the case, remain calm and take immediate action. Not all criminals will use a stolen credit card immediately, some steal them with the intent to sell them, which is good for you, it gives you time to call and take care of the problem. The sooner you work through the necessary steps the sooner the situation will be resolved and you can move on from the situation. This is what to do if someone opened a credit card in your name.
1. Contact the Credit Card Issuer’s Fraud Department
The sooner you contact the credit card issuer about the possible credit or debit card fraud the more likely it is that you will get out of the situation without any lasting damage. If you contact the credit card issuer and inform them of the card’s stolen nature before it has been used then they know that any purchases using it in the future will not have been made by you.
Even if the card is used before you call you are still helping yourself. The sooner the problem is reported the less damage can be done so the most important thing you can do is act quickly.
2. Report the Identity Theft
The second thing you should do is report the identity theft. Start by filing a police report regarding the theft and make sure you keep the details organized and available in case legal action is required to resolve the situation.
Follow up by reporting the credit fraud to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and initiate a recovery plan. They will assist you in sorting out the details of the situation and may even grant you a free credit freeze if you choose to take that step.
3. Consider a Fraud Alert or Credit Freeze
You may wish to place a fraud alert or credit freeze on your credit report. This step will make it more difficult for the identity thief to open new accounts in your name. If that is a concern then you should certainly take this step. To do this, simply call one of the three credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian, or Transunion. You only have to contact one, they are obligated to immediately inform the other two upon being notified. A fraud alert limits access to your credit report by requiring identity verification. A credit freeze will stop all access to your credit report until it is lifted by you.
Initial fraud alert
The initial fraud alert is attached to your report for 90 days and notifies viewers that you are suspected to be the victim of identity theft. If anyone attempts to send a credit application in your name the recipient will be required to contact you and verify your identity. Once the initial 90 days are up the alert can be renewed as many times as necessary as long as you remember to renew the alert every 90 days.
Extended fraud alert
If you are looking for long-term protection and don’t want to continue to renew your initial fraud alert then you might consider an extended fraud alert. This type of alert will last for a total of 7 years. If you are intending to set up an extended fraud alert you will require a copy of the police report you filed earlier. If you later decide that the full 7 years is not necessary then you can have the fraud alert removed at your discretion.
A credit freeze won’t just require that you be notified about activity regarding your credit, it will place a hold on all of your credit information entirely and ensures that most lenders won’t open an account in your name. This type of fraud protection requires that you set it up with all three credit bureaus instead of just one. This is total protection but at the cost of making it difficult for you to use your own credit. Any time you need to do so you will need to request a temporary lift of the freeze.
If you choose to issue a credit freeze on your information, know that in some states this will incur a fee though they are waived if you share a valid investigative report.
4. Review Your Credit Reports
After you have reported and protected your information your next step should be to review your credit reports and compare them to your own records. If you are lucky then you have caught the only fraud being perpetrated against you, but it is also possible that there is more going on. It is important that you review the accounts on your report and ensure that they match your records.
To aid you in this effort you should know that you are entitled to one free credit report per 12-month period from each of the credit bureaus as well as another free report upon requesting a fraud alert.
5. Dispute Fraudulent Information With the Credit Bureaus
If you find fraudulent information while reviewing your credit reports then it is your responsibility to report that information to the credit bureaus and ensure that the information is acknowledged, noted, and corrected.
6. Complete an ID Theft Affidavit
You should complete an ID Theft Affidavit once each of the earlier steps are completed. This is a document that gathers all of the data of your identity theft as well as your personal information in one place to assist you in proving that your personal financial data was used when opening a fraudulent account.
7. File a Police Report – What if the Culprit Is Somebody You Know?
If the perpetrator of your identity being stolen is someone you know, like a friend or family member, it is understandable that you might hesitate to file a police report against them. There are many variables you will consider and if other family members or friends know about the situation they may attempt to convince you not to file against the perpetrator, but ultimately it is up to you to act with your own best interest in mind. If you don’t do anything to dispute the fraudulent charges and/or accounts then the responsibility for them will fall on your shoulders, which you certainly don’t deserve.
8. Dispute Fraudulent Accounts With Each Credit Bureau
If you find any accounts that you did not open while reviewing your reports and your personal records it is important that you dispute these accounts with the credit bureaus. Inform them that the balance associated with the account is the result of fraud and make sure to present any documentation you received from the credit agencies when you filed your incident report and requested the fraud alert.
Once the credit bureaus confirm with the credit agencies that what you are saying is true they will remove the accounts from your report. This is important because accounts that are opened as a result of fraud are unlikely to have payments made on them which could tank your credit.