Getting your name and credit back takes time and effort
Identity thieves seem to be working overtime these days.
According to Consumer Reports, if you've been a victim of a data breach, like in Target's case , you're eight times more likely to become the victim of identity theft.
What we've seen from the Target breach so far has been scammers using stolen credit and debit card numbers to go on a spending spree. It happened to Cecelia Miller after using her debit card at Target.
"They took all of the money out of the account, there was nothing," Miller said. "We were in the negative, getting charged overdraft fees."
A headache for sure -- and one that took about a month to clear up.
But if hackers are able to use your stolen information to open new accounts in your name, it can become a nightmare.
Just ask Axton Betz-Hamilton. Years ago, her name and social security number were hijacked, and repairing the damage to her credit took years.
"From 2001 to 2009 I was fighting to try to get my credit report cleared," she said.
So what do you do if you discover thieves wrecked your credit?
"You have to reach out to each of the three credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion , and work with them as to what needs to be done," said Andrew Johnson from GreenPath Debt Solutions.
The first step will be putting a fraud alert, and freeze on your credit report. Essentially that keeps other people from opening credit in your name. The Federal Trade Commission recommends you then create what's called an Identity Theft Report. That requires a visit to your local police department.
"Many people skip this step in contacting your law enforcement agency but filing a police report is yet another example of proof that your identity may have been stolen," Johnson said.
That report can help get fraudulent information removed from your credit report, and stop a company from collecting debts.
It's also important when you work with creditors, to take good notes.
"It's easy to get frustrated and easy to get angry about this," Johnson said. "But you need to document who you talked to, when you talked to them, and what their title is, so you have that sort of paper trail in a way.
And a final piece of advice: patience. It can take hours and hours to clear up your name, or in Axton's case, years.
"You're guilty until proven innocent," Axton said. "The burden of proof is on you to prove you didn't do it."
Why was Axton's case so severe? She had her identity stolen when she was just a child and it was years before it was discovered.
The Federal Trade Commission has great resources if you've been a victim of identity theft.
Click here for more information on how to create an Identity Theft Report.
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