What To Do If You Are A Victim Of Identity Theft

Vernon Coleman

1. Panic. Get it out of your system. Run around yelling `I've been ruined' for five minutes. You'll feel better. (People who say `Don't panic' aren't there, aren't real and have probably never had something awful happen to them.) Then sit down and decide that things could be worse (you could have just had a letter from the hospital telling you that you have twenty minutes to live), that you are going to deal with this and that, if at all possible, you are going to fry the bastard who did it to you. Alternatively, pack a suitcase, change your name and go abroad.

2. Be prepared to spend some time recovering your identity. The authorities estimate that, on average, it takes 300 hours of hard work to repair the damage done by an identity theft. So put aside everything you can. This is going to take over your life for a while. But, again, learning to walk again after an accident can take a lot of time, so keep things in perspective.

3. Establish all the facts. Contact all three credit reporting agencies to find the extent of the damage.

4. From now on make notes of every phone call you make and every conversation you have. Keep copies of all the letters you write.

5. Report the crime to the police. Get a lawyer. Actually, do these two things the other way round. Don't give the police (or anyone else) original copies of your documentation. Give them copies. If you cannot afford a lawyer, visit your local Citizens Advice Bureau.

6. Contact all the financial institutions with whom you do business. Tell them what has happened.

7. Cancel any credit cards which might be compromised and change any bank account numbers which might be at risk. Close any fake accounts which have been opened in your name.

8. If any professional ID has been compromised get cards and passwords changed. If your passport, driving licence or national insurance card has been stolen you must tell the relevant authorities. They will doubtless get back to you when they have had their tea and come back from holiday. To make sure that you can prove when you told them something write to them and post your letters by recorded delivery. Keep the recorded delivery slip as proof of your posting. Better still, get your lawyer to write to them.

9. Gather together all your own records.

10. Start a file dealing with the problem. (You should keep this for at least ten years after it's all over. If problems recur you will be glad you had it.)

11. Keep details of all the costs you incur. If you get a chance you may be able to sue the thief when you catch him.

12. Remember that under the Consumer Credit Act 1974 you have a legal right to have incorrect information on your credit file corrected.

13. Go to your local police station to find out if any crimes have been committed in your name. Ask for details of any information held about you. (You are entitled to this under the Data Protection Act.)

Taken from How To Protect And Preserve Your Freedom, Identity And Privacy by Vernon Coleman, published by Blue Books and available from the webshop on this site and from all good bookshops everywhere.

Copyright Vernon Coleman 2007