Dear Liz: A copy of my wife’s Social Security card and driver’s license were stolen recently. I immediately contacted the credit bureaus. The first one tried to sell me a protection product. When I tried another number for that bureau, I got the automated runaround. The second bureau agreed to put a fraud alert on my account, then they too tried to sell me a product! Please tell everyone what will happen when they report issues like this, as you and so many others recommend. I still don’t know if I have done everything I can do.
Answer: If she hasn’t done so already, your wife should call the police to report the crime and get a copy of the report in case she needs it later to prove she’s a victim of identity theft.
Your wife is the one who needs to have fraud alerts placed on her credit reports at all three of the major credit bureaus: Equifax at (800) 525-6285, Experian at (888) 397-3742 and Trans Union at (800) 680-7289. These alerts are good for 90 days and can be renewed. It’s unfortunate the bureaus are using these help lines to pitch products, but you don’t need to buy anything to get a fraud alert placed on your files. In two or three months, she should use http://www.annualcreditreport.com to get a free look at her credit reports to make sure no one has opened accounts in her name.
Your wife also may want to consider a credit freeze, which locks up her credit reports to make it much harder for someone to apply for credit in her name. Get more information about these freezes, which typically involve fees, at http://www.financialprivacynow.org.
In addition, she needs to call your state’s department of motor vehicles to report the stolen license. If she discovers later that someone is using it, she can request a number change.
For more on coping with stolen information and dealing with identity theft, visit the Identity Theft Resource Center at http://www.idtheftcenter.org.