When someone becomes a victim of identity theft, disbelief and panic usually gives way to frustration and anxiety quite fast. Even with the assistance of modern technology, identity theft recovery can be a long, slow, time consuming process. Phone calls, mounds of paper work, identity theft affidavits and potentially hiring an attorney to help clear what was once your good name.
For some, the identity theft recovery process takes years, and there have even been reports of identity theft victims still trying to recover decades after the fact. Those who were hit by identity theft as children are particularly vulnerable to longer identity theft recovery timeframes. Often, the damage isn’t detected until they’re older and applying for their first bank accounts or jobs.
For example, a North Carolina woman reported that a thief purchased her Social Security number when she was 11 years old. Now in her early 20s, she’s still fighting to clear her name after he used the information to get a job, obtain medical services and open credit accounts.
But any victim of identity theft can struggle for far longer than he or she might expect. Some get hit multiple times, compounding the problem and pushing out their recovery period.
Identity Theft Recovery Times
The timeframe for getting back on track depends on several factors, including:
- Your willingness to put in the time: According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), identity theft recovery takes an average of 18 months and 200 hours of work. For those with limited time for phone calls, written correspondence, emails, police reports, follow-up replies and investigative work, those 200 hours can stretch out over years.
- Your credit health: Someone with a perfect credit score and a spotless credit record will likely have an easier time “proving” that any financial deviations are fraud. But it’s estimated that only about 5% of consumers ever get the top credit score, and even then, it’s difficult to maintain. For the rest of us, recovery will take longer and require more proof.
- Your emotional resilience: For many, having their identities hijacked is just the start down a long and difficult road. Dealing with the cleanup can bring on feelings of depression, worry, anxiety and vulnerability. Even after recovering financially, it may take much longer to find peace of mind.
How to Take Action
If you do become a victim of identity theft and find yourself wondering what to do next, these tactics can shorten the amount of time it takes to recover:
- Act quickly. Putting the process off until later could result in considerable damage and risk. Take the immediate steps recommended by the FTC, such as placing a fraud alert on your accounts, ordering your credit report and creating an identity theft report.
- Keep detailed notes. Always jot down whom you’ve called or written, and keep all records in a single file so you can access them easily.
Another way to shorten the recovery timeframe significantly is enrolling in a product like IdentityForce’s UltraSecure, which monitors your personal information 24/7 and notifies you quickly of any suspicious activity. If any identity theft damage does occur, IdentityForce will help you take action so you can restore your identity quickly, not for years to come.