Recovering from identity theft can take a toll on your finances and stress level. After all, you're left cleaning up after someone used your information for his or her gain. And ID theft recovery is a time drain, too.
The average time it takes to fix an identity theft issue is seven hours, usually over the course of a day (most common) up to a month. In extreme cases, people may spend up to 1,200 hours over the course of a year or more resolving identity theft problems.
Of course, how long you'll spend recovering from identity theft depends on a few factors.
2 factors that impact how long it takes to recover from ID theft
- The time and effort you put into it: You'll play a big part in the identity theft recovery process. Catching and resolving identity theft quickly could help you lose less money. Filing the initial report can be done quickly, but get mentally prepared: The most time-consuming part is sorting out your accounts and following up (and following up again) after doing the initial legwork. That includes things like tracking written correspondence, checking your credit reports and lounging in your bank’s waiting area to open new, legitimate accounts.
- The type of theft that occurred: If you catch bogus transactions in one of your existing accounts, would you believe it if we said you're in luck? That's because you're more likely to spend less than a day clearing up this type of identity theft. And you're less likely to face financial and legal problems stemming from the theft. But if your identity was used to open several new accounts, get medical care, apply for a job or rent an apartment, you could spend 40-plus hours over the course of six months sorting out the fraud.
What you can do to speed up recovery time
If we haven't hammered this point enough, here it is again: Act fast. If your accounts were misused, immediately call the company you have the accounts with, and file a police report or an identity theft report with the Federal Trade Commission. Then get the three credit bureaus to help you weed out fake accounts or charges.
In the aftermath, document each time you talk with the credit bureaus, the business you have the account with and the police.
"The squeaky wheel gets the oil," says Steven J.J. Weisman, a lawyer and author of "Identity Theft Alert." "You've got to be your own best advocate, or have someone advocate on your behalf. You have to be both motivated and willing to take the time to remedy the fraud."