One of the most common misconceptions about credit reporting is cases of identity theft, how the CRA may be liable for them, how to report them, and how to get this stuff off your credit report. In order to better understand these issues, it’s important to understand how identity theft happens. Obviously, an identity thief takes some piece of your identity.
But it’s not often that an identity thief gets your birth certificate, your social security card, your driver’s license, and a credit card all at the same time. They may come across a piece of your information or some fragment of your information, and they’ll use this to get credit in your name. Often the way they use it is to combine your name and their name. Maybe it’ll be your last name and their first name, or their birth date or made up birth date and your social or vice versa. There’s any number of combinations and ways that this plays out. But it’s not that often that a person is wholly imitated or duplicated. It’s usually some combination.
With that in mind, an identity thief will then go out and rent an apartment, buy a car, take out a credit card in your name. Of course, they don’t pay on the lease or pay on the car note or pay on the credit card debt. So these things go into default status. Suits are filed. Debt collectors take over. A debt collector will then use skip tracing to tie that account to you and report it on your credit report, if it hasn’t already been reported. This can cause your credit to suddenly decline for items you don’t recognize to show up on your credit report, and generally make a disaster of things for your credit life.
In response and in part, as required by law, the credit reporting agencies have created a couple of different ways to report suspected identity theft and actual identity theft. The first one is the initial fraud report. If you believe your identity’s been stolen or compromised, you can call any one of the CRAs and make an initial fraud report. Experian is required to call TransUnion and Equifax. But personally, I wouldn’t trust Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion to do anything. You should call all three credit bureaus if you believe your identity’s been stolen.
The Initial Fraud Report
This initial fraud report requires Experian Equifax, and TransUnion when they make a credit report, to put on there clearly and conspicuously that there’s identity theft suspected. Anytime they issue your credit score, they have to note that there’s an identity theft. This initial fraud report also entitles you to one free credit report, but the report is only good for 90 days. Now if you resolve whatever you believe, whatever caused you to believe your credit report had been stolen, or your identity had been stolen, you can call Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion back within those 90 days and undo this initial fraud report.
The Extended Fraud Report
To extend it, you need to file another fraud report, the extended fraud report. The second fraud report is good for seven years, but it requires a report, typically a police report. It has to be taken. It has to have all the details of the identity theft. It has to be filed. And the way it’s filed must subject you to criminal penalty for making a false report. Typically, what meets these criteria is a police report. If you believe your identity’s been stolen, then call your local police department. Call the non-emergency line. Tell them you’d like to make a police report. Many police departments will send out a police officer who will take down your report and file it. Once it’s filed, get a copy of it and mail it in to Experian.
Now again, Experian is required to tell TransUnion and Equifax, but I wouldn’t trust them to do that. So anything you mail to Experian, also mail to TransUnion and Equifax and vice versa. If your identity fraud is only showing up one CRA, it’s a good idea to mail to the other two credit reporting agencies out of caution. Now, like I said, this report is good for seven years and will fall off your credit report after seven years. It also entitles you to two free credit reports in the first 12 months.
When you file this report, Experian is allowed to ask you for more information, as long as you do it within the first 15 days. When you give that information, Experian is allowed to ask or make a second request for more information. After that, there’s no more requests they can make.
An Order Establishing ID Theft
Texas law allows you to get an order from a district court that legally establishes that you are the vicitim of identity theft and its a powerful tool in cleaning up accounts resulting from ID theft.
If you believe your identity’s been stolen, it’s important you make a phone call to the CRA right away to get the initial fraud report started. Then call your non-emergency line for your local police department and make a police report about your stolen identity. If you’d like some other strategies for cleaning up your credit report or handling identity theft, I’m happy to talk to you about fixing your credit report for no cost. My number is 210-226-0800.