It can be a nightmare to repair the damage that occurs when you become an identity-theft victim. Not only can it cost a lot of time and money, but identity theft can also be very stressful to resolve, according to San Jose attorney Anita Steburg.
Last year, approximately 11 million Americans were victims of identity theft. Identities were stolen from mailboxes, trash bins and documents that contain driver’s license and credit card information. Security breaches at department stores and high-tech companies have made headlines recently.
A stolen identity has a street value that ranges from $1,000 for a Social Security card to more than $10,000 for identities of people with stellar credit, Steburg noted. Realtors can help spot identity theft, she said, because of the numerous transactions they handle in their business.
“Realtors are on the frontline because they deal with documents all the time,” Steburg said.
Buyers are advised to prepare their credit reports and other necessary documents as early as possible, in case unusual judgments or false charges surface. Such items take time to clear and could jeopardize a transaction.
Steburg said realtors can share the following steps to repair identity theft with their clients.
• Immediately call one of the three credit reporting companies – Equifax, Experian or TransUnion – and ask them to place an initial fraud alert on your credit report. You only need to contact one credit reporting company to place an alert because they share information.
• Once you’ve placed a fraud alert, you can receive a free credit report from each of the three credit reporting companies. When you receive your report, check to see which account was compromised.
• Create an identity-theft report with the Federal Trade Commission. The report serves as your identity-theft affidavit.
• Contact the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and file a complaint. The bureau will assign a complaint number, forward your problem to the company, issue a tracking number and update you on the status of your complaint.
• File a police report. Use the police report and identity theft affidavit to place an extended fraud alert on your credit, which will last for seven years. The documents can also assist you in getting fraudulent information removed from your credit report and stopping a company from collecting debts that result from identity theft. Once the credit reporting companies receive the documents, they are supposed to confer with one another and delete the false information, unless they need more information.
For more information on identity theft, visit ftc.gov.