Take these three steps immediately if you believe you are a victim of identity theft (i.e., that an identity thief has obtained access to your confidential personal information and has used or may use your identity for self-enrichment):
- First, freeze your credit.
A credit freeze bars credit reporting agencies - Equifax, Experian, TransUnion, and others - from providing information from your credit file to potential creditors. In other words, no one will be able to successfully apply for credit in your name when your file is subject to a credit freeze. Be aware, however, that you also will be unable to obtain credit when your file is frozen. You can, however, temporarily unfreeze your credit files if you need to apply for credit.
- Second, review your credit reports with Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
You can obtain free copies of your credit report with each of the big three consumer reporting agencies on annualcreditreport.com, which is linked here. Carefully examine your entire reports, from personal information to account information, to account inquiries. Write down every single piece of data that is inaccurate (incorrect information and information you suspect may be the product of identity theft/fraud).
- Third, consult with a qualified Consumer Attorney
A consumer law firm, like Sherman & Ticchio, with experience helping consumers with identity theft and other credit reporting issues can advise you of your legal rights under federal and state law. In addition, an experienced identity theft lawyer can guide you through the dispute process if you find inaccurate or fraudulent information on a credit report. Finally, a qualified consumer law firm can initiate litigation on your behalf if your disputes do not resolve inaccurate credit reporting.
Many consumer law firms, including ours, offer free consultations and, if litigation under the Fair Credit Reporting Act is necessary, draw their fees from the proceeds of the case. In other words, if you must resort to litigation it is the defendants - and not you - who will be responsible for paying your attorney's fees to Sherman & Ticchio.