When Identity Theft Hits Close to Home

What to do when a family member steals your identity

2. Close the account.
Cut off the line of credit immediately. Often, when this type of offense is committed by a family member, we allow them to placate us with “I’m going to pay you back,” or “Don’t worry about it, it’s going to be paid off.” But you must be proactive and salvage what you can of your credit before it gets any further out of hand. It would also be a good idea to place a fraud alert on your credit report.

3. Call—and write—the creditors.
The next thing you need to do is contact the creditors “you” owe, says Smith-Valentine, who represented a client who went through a similar situation as the example above. He was able to show the companies his birth certificate, proving that he was a minor when the transactions occurred, showing that he could not have possibly made the purchases.

It is important to write the creditors and not just call, says founder and president of Identity Theft Resource Center, Linda Foley. If you know a family member made the purchases, you will need a police report to be taken seriously. Send the police report, the list of fraudulent purchases, and a copy of your birth certificate to verify that you were a minor when these took place (and could not have even opened the account). You should also send a copy of the letter to each of the three major credit reporting agencies—Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Also keep copies of all the letters you send, and ask them to block the fraudulent information per Fair Credit Reporting Act Section 605b. All mail should be sent registered, certified mail with a return receipt requested. Make sure you also keep a record of all calls.

4. Go to the top.
If the initial letter and phone call to customer service yield no results, go to the top. “Spend a little time doing a quick Google search to find the office of the president,” says Smith-Valentine. Send another letter via certified mail, and include a copy of the initial letter you sent to customer service. If you can, include even more information about the problem you are trying to resolve.

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