Receivable/Accounts - Information for Credit and Collection Issues

Friday, January 21, 2011

Identity Theft

The point of this blog is to provide advice to both consumers and businesses, providing each insight into the other side.

Today, let’s talk about helping consumers with identity theft.

In collections, I often run into people who claim their identity has been stolen. However, at this late stage, very few people have proof, supporting documentation, or have taken reasonable actions to prevent this from affecting them down the road. If you want your claim that a debt was not incurred by yourself to be believed (and acted on), here is some very important advice.

Firstly, if your identity has been stolen, or lost and then used by someone else, file a police report immediately! A collection agent or creditor is not going to believe your identity was stolen in 2007 if you did nothing about it four years ago. And filing a police report in 2011 is too little too late. When you file your police report, you will receive a card with a police incident number, and that number is going to be very important for the other steps described below.

After you have an incident report number, send a letter to all your creditors. If you are particularly worried, a registered letter would be ideal, but a simple letter stating “my identity has been stolen, and I urge you to be cautious about any credit transactions without verifying my identity first from this date forward”.

Will this make your life a little more difficult dealing with these creditors going forward? Yes. But it can prevent you being liable for thousands of dollars that you didn’t incur.

Now that you’ve notified the police and your creditors, you need to have an identity theft alert placed on your credit bureau. In Canada, there are two competing credit bureau companies, Trans Union Services and Equifax Canada. In the US, there is a third major credit bureau, Experian. Their numbers are listed below. Each credit bureau has a procedure for reporting an incident of identity theft, and anyone pulling your credit bureau going forward will receive an alert.

Trans Union 1-800-663-9980

Equifax 1-800-937-4093

Experian 1-888-397-3742

Now that you have laid down all the groundwork (at the time of the identity theft!) going forward, if a debt arises from the identity theft, you can respond verbally or in writing, citing the original police report number, and point out there is an identity theft alert on your credit bureau. This will give support to your claim, and will force any collection agency or creditor to thoroughly investigate the alleged debt before moving forward.