All you have to do is turn on your television every once in a while and you’ll see that, once again, some large company was the victim of a large scale data breach and identity theft.
Target, Home Depot, Michaels, Sony, the list goes on and on. Still, the fact that there are scam artists who want to steal your personal information is not breaking news.The Federal Trade Commission received more than 332,000 fraud related complaints in 2014.
The good news is that victims of identity theft have many legal protections and even more tools to help them prevent and then undo the damage done to their credit reports by fraudsters.
Here are five steps to consider taking if your credit has been damaged by the actions of an identity thief:
1. Freeze your credit reports
If you discover that a scammer has opened accounts fraudulently using your personal information, one of the first steps you should take is to place a security freeze on all three of your credit reports.
The freeze is so effective at stopping scammers in their tracks because it results in your credit reports being taken out of circulation, preventing new lenders from gaining any access to them. If lenders are unable to access your credit reports then there is no way a new account will be opened in your name.
If you’ve been the victim of identity theft then security freezes are free. If you have not been the victim of identity theft you can still freeze your credit reports but there’s a fee involved.
You can place freezes by contacting each of the three credit reporting agencies individually in order to set up your login and password credentials, which you’ll use to manage the access to your credit reports.
Keep in mind that whenever you wish to use your credit reports again to apply for credit then it will be necessary to contact each credit bureau in order to “thaw” your reports and have them placed back into circulation.