Saturday, May 26, 2007

Identity Theft - 7 Steps for Surviving Identity Theft

I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice. I am a victim and a survivor of identify theft.

How did I survive?

I created a system and prepared for a fight. My system which included perseverance, patience, and organization made it possible to battle the businesses, the collectors and the courts. I won every battle I chose to fight and I did not pay one bill that was created by the identity thieves.

Here are 7 strategies I used in my battles.

1. You are alone. Be prepared to fight this war alone and choose your battles wisely. The police will be of little help and the government agencies will even do less.

2. Close your bank account. Contact an account manager immediately, inform him/her what has happened and close your account. Next, tell the manager that you would like a notarized statement confirming that the check was a forgery and a notarized statement that confirms your true signature. If all goes well, open a new account immediately to handle your new transactions. If the bank is uncooperative seriously consider changing banks.

3. Get a police report. Contact your local law enforcement and request a case number. If you have to, demand one. Don't let them brush you off, it will cost you later. Make sure you have copies of the check or checks and the affidavits from the bank. The next morning go to the police department or court house to obtain a copy of the crime report. It will cost about five dollars but it will well worth it.

4. Contact the credit bureaus . As soon as you have obtained your case number and the officer has left, call the major credit bureaus and request a credit report watch. This will be a bit inconvenient but well worth it. In most cases if you call one of the bureaus you can file with the other two at the same time. The watch will be in affect for about six months and should be sufficient for most situations.

5. Organize your materials. The major key to winning the war is to stay organized. You must make multiple copies of all your evidence and keep your originals in a separate file to insure that you don't mail the originals. Then set up files for every company or bill collector that contacts you and make copies of everything that receive or send. The paper trail is your friend.

6. Don't trust bill collectors or the company. Don't trust any bill collector or company to do things for you. They are not your friend. They want the money and don't care from whom it comes. Also watch out for a company and a bill collector to try collecting the same bill. Even after you have sent one of them all your information. This is a ploy to confuse you and get the money.

Warning: DO NOT PAY any bill that is not yours. Once you pay a collector, the others will pounce on you. You have given in and have lost leverage.

7. Be patient. The whole process requires patience. Don't panic and stand your ground with the bill collectors. If you didn't make the charges don't let them scare you into paying. They will use every trick in the book. They will even accuse you of filing a false report to get out of paying your bills. You don't have to tolerate that kind of treatment hang up on them and make them contact you again and demand to speak to someone else.

Remember you are in this alone, you must keep excellent records and never pay anyone you don't truly owe. Remain diligent, calm, and consistent you will win the war.

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