I've just been made aware that there are some items on my credit history that are not mine, the largest is for over $1000. I've never used a credit card or taken out a loan, so I can be sure they are not mine. What are the steps I need to take to resolve this?
This happened to me in college, I feel for you.
- Call each of the three credit reporting agencies, order copies of your credit reports and place fraud warnings on each one.
- Call your bank, and make sure there is a password on your account for phone banking so that even someone with your SSN, address, and other info cannot pretend to be you and empty your accounts.
- Make sure you are using reasonable security practices in general. Shred or burn trash items with sensitive info on them, don't re-use valuable internet passwords, use strong passwords and use encryption where appropriate, etc.
- You will have found out from the credit agencies where the loans were taken out and with whom. Call those lenders' fraud departments to report the problem, and call the police departments in whose jurisdictions the fraud happened to file a police report on each.
- Be ready to need a lawyer in the future should the companies holding the bad debts try to fight to make you pay.
It's also popular advice to cancel your credit/debit card(s) and get new ones, or at least put a "check ID" directive on them by calling the card companies. Unless you've seen questionable activity there, don't worry about it. Credit/Debit skimming and other forms of card fraud are usually done by different criminals than the sort who quietly take out loans in your name, and bored cashiers rarely check ID even when the card comes back with a "check ID" flag.
If you are a student, check all of your college paperwork. A ton of identity theft happens to college students because many schools still have the inexcusable habit of printing your full SSN (sometimes along with your birthdate) on nearly every piece of paper they mail you. It's easy for someone to get a hold of your information that way. Of course, anyone's mail can get stolen, I've just seen some truly egregious behavior on the part of universities in this regard.
First thing you need to do is contact each credit bureau and place a credit freeze on your credit. This is different than fraud warnings and will actually stop a criminal rather than let criminal activity happen and send you a letter.
Use the credit bureau's systems to challenge the item on the report. I would do it via the web site AND send certified letters (so you have proof you sent them) to each bureau challenging the specific items. This might take 3 months or more to have an effect, but since the lender reporting to your credit won't be able to prove you took out the loan, the incorrect items will be removed from your report.
Follow up frequently. I would think a credit monitoring service for the next few months will allow you to see your report often to make sure things are falling off, and nothing bad is being added.
Remember it takes 60 days for something to be removed from your credit. Be vigilant, but be a little patient.