Each year, about 10 million people become the victim of identity theft. Many more have unauthorized charges made on their credit cards or have to deal with some other form of fraud. Unfortunately, a do-it-yourself identity restoration can take weeks or months and require dozens of hours of your time. In this, the third and final installment in a series on using digital document management to protect yourself from identity theft, SafelyFiled and Control Your ID will cover ways in which digital document management can help you recover from identity theft.
For most people, dealing with identity theft means dealing with organizations like credit bureaus, the IRS, your bank or your insurance company. Some of these organizations will want paperwork from you, others will provide you with paperwork, and in many cases you’ll have conversations you want to log for future reference. Let’s go over the basics.
First, no matter who you deal with you will likely need a fraud affidavit and a police report. Both documents are important, not because the government is likely to investigate your identity theft case, but because organizations that have been defrauded want you to swear out an official statement before they will recognize your claim of fraud. These organizations know that true victims don’t mind filing a police report while those simply trying to avoid paying their bills are very hesitant to perjure themselves.
You can download a standard fraud affidavit form from the FTC and after you complete it you may need to get it notarized. Make sure the notary stamp is in ink and not simply an embossment, so that it will show up in digital copies. Police reports can be filed with any police department including campus police. There is no need to travel to the jurisdiction where the fraud was committed. You can usually obtain a copy of your police report within 24 hours; sometimes you can get a copy immediately.
Second, if you’ve taken our advice from our first two articles, you will have digital copies of your personal identification and your bank, credit card, utility and tax statements. The identification will be needed to verify your name, date of birth, your mailing address and your appearance. If you have credit card accounts that you need to cancel, this will provide you with the contact information and the account numbers to do so.
Third, you’ll want to log all your correspondence by mail or telephone with anyone you talk to, especially the credit bureaus, collection agencies or any organization that was defrauded. You don’t need to create anything fancy – a simple spreadsheet or a text document will suffice. Just make sure to log the date, time, organization and person you corresponded with, any documents you sent or received from them, the purpose of the correspondence and the next steps, if any. An organization might commit to sending you a confirmation letter, or removing a derogatory item from your credit report within 30 days. Make a note of these commitments so you can follow-up as needed.