All these years you've been extra cautious with your personal information: whispering the last four digits of your social security number to phone representatives, shredding mail and personal documents, even adding fraud alerts to your bank accounts just to find out that information revealing your identity may have been at even greater risk right in the privacy of your own home. Has your credit been compromised by a relative or loved one? Don't fret, here are a few options you have to cope with this nightmare experience.
Check Your Credit Score Frequently
Checking your credit score at least twice a month can potentially save you a lot of time and money for the future. No worries, it will not affect your credit score, whatsoever! According to TransUnion, one study found 32% of identity theft victims discovered a family member or relative was responsible for stealing their identity.
All companies are given up to 30 days to report any updates to all three credit bureaus, so in most cases, changes to your account will appear the second time around, which is why checking twice is always nice!
Here area few places you can view your credit report and score for FREE!
CapitalOne.com - FREE Credit Tracker (TransUnion)
Barclaycard.com – FREE FICO Score
Discover.com - FREE FICO Score
Contact Them Immediately
Not your relative, silly. Reach out to any institutions claiming you've opened an account with them. If you're feeling brave, now's the perfect time to propose a deal. If there is a closed and unauthorized account in your name still carrying a balance, suggesting a payoff in exchange for COMPLETE removal isn't a bad idea, either. If they accept, be sure to get this in writing before handing over any money! Remember once they have submitted documentation solidifying the agreement, they have 30 days to wipe away any traces of this account on your credit report, or else…
Dispute the Item
Everyone isn't out to get you. Some incidents truly are just a case of misinformation so if you ever witness an account on your credit report that may be in error, simply dispute it with your credit bureau. Once you file a dispute, they will attempt to investigate the matter and if it is indeed in error, there's a great chance it will be removed. If the investigation reveals that it is not, prepare to move forward with one of the steps below.
In the rare case that your loved one has opened numerous unauthorized accounts in your name, here are a few additional options to consider when facing extreme circumstances such as this.
Consult With an Attorney
With the help of an attorney specializing in credit and identity fraud, there's hope that you can take back control of your credit, again. In most cases, these small windows of opportunity require evidence proving you have not provided your relative with consent, nor are you benefiting whatsoever from the account opened in your name.
Worst Case Scenario - Report It to the Police
This is the most difficult step to take. Yes, you may feel hurt, betrayed, and downright violated by your relative, but who can live with themselves knowing they reported identity fraud to the police and as a result, had their own relative arrested? However, if this is your only option at salvaging the damage done, there's nothing wrong with doing so. After all, fraud is illegal and you have every right to report it. Relative or not.
Identity theft, no matter who the culprit may be, is still a crime and you shouldn't have to accept pain and suffering in circumstances where you were obviously the victim. These shared coping methods range from mild to severe cases of identity fraud from a relative. Whichever options you select, feel confident in knowing that, ultimately, you do have a choice.