Senior Identity Restoration and Fraud Resources
It’s something that no one wants to experience but many need to prepare for and think about - regardless of age! Identity theft and fraud affected nearly 2.6 million seniors in 2014 according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. With so many ways people can become victims of identity theft whether online, over the phone, or even in person, it’s important to prepare against these crimes and learn to prevent them. And yet, thwarting a potential identity thief is sometimes easier said than done — once you’ve become a victim it’s about learning the process of senior identity restoration.
Preparing to Restore Your Identity
When someone first learns that they’ve been a victim of identity theft, it’s often a scary and overwhelming experience. Everything could be normal and then out of the blue comes the news that your account has been suspended, perhaps a bill payment bounced, or you may even receive a phone call from investigators. People rarely think about experiencing such a crime, although for those who do, the process is relatively the same regarding how one’s financial identity can be reclaimed.
To start, one of the first steps that victims of senior identity theft are most commonly told to do is to contact the three main credit bureaus, TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax. Although this is relatively good advice, there are still several considerations and details you need to make before making these calls and starting with the process of senior identity restoration. The numbers for these credit bureaus are as follows:
When a case of identity theft surfaces, federal law mandates that victims are entitled to place a free 90-day fraud alert on their credit reports. Essentially, this fraud alert is a disclaimer statement that is placed on your credit report that warns creditors of the situation. This serves to avoid further complications with your credit score and their official records of your history with their company. You’ll have the option to provide your phone number with this notice of placing your fraud alert — this way creditors can contact you before moving forward with issuing your new credit.
Keep in mind that this may deter identity theft for the time being, although it is only good for 90 days before expiring. Renewing this alert is possible as long as you contact the bureaus every following 90 days. Calling one credit bureau may be all that is needed considering each will contact the other two in order to verify the alert, however it may just be better to contact each bureau directly for the best results. In addition to this 90-day fraud alert you do also have the option of placing a seven-year extension on your alert, however this requires a copy of your police report and additional identification sent to each credit bureau.
Issuing a Credit Freeze on Your Account
Though a fraud alert will provide temporary protection from a credit-related case of identity theft, it will not “lock down your credit” as you may have been instructed to do by authorities. For this, you’ll need to consider how to implement a credit freeze.
What is known as a credit freeze or a security freeze will make it so potential creditors cannot see your report. Without being able to obtain your credit report, the chance of fraudulent accounts being opened by the thief is greatly reduced. Placing a successful credit freeze on your account requires the use of a PIN number so that you are the only person definitively accessing your credit.
In addition to contacting these bureaus to place your account under fraud alert, it is also possible to receive a free copy of your credit report. It is important to note that these reports are free to you, but do come at an expense to the bureaus themselves and so they may not offer this without you making a specific request. Remember, the free report issued as a result of placing a fraud alert is IN ADDITION to the free one you are entitled to every 12 months. Furthermore, it’s better to go to these bureaus directly than to search the Internet for “free credit reports.” This could lead to a slew of other complications and may even feed back into channels that criminals can use to gain access to your account once again.
Mitigating the Damage of Senior Identity Fraud
Once you have successfully put a fraud alert in place and have obtained your accurate credit report, the next step is smoothing out your current situation. Whether you’ve been a victim of someone opening a fraudulent account in your name, making fraudulent transactions, or any of the many types of identity theft, there are ways to fix the situation. To do this you’ll need to organize your identity theft report, which consists of two main things: your police report and a Federal Trade Commission report.
From here you’ll be able to work on restoring your credit accounts and official records to ensure that this crime doesn’t cause any more headaches for you in the future! For more information, contacting the Federal Trade Commission via their FTC Complaint Assistant and help services will also point you in the right direction.