One of the top questions we hear at IdentityForce is, “I think my identity was stolen; what do I do now?” Unfortunately, given how deeply identity theft has infiltrated our lives — criminals are stealing medical records, tax returns, employment files and more — we hear this question more and more often.
Staying vigilant about changes in your personal information can help you spot an incident sooner and shut down theft. Here’s what to do if your identity is stolen:
- Confirm the theft: Look through your credit report, bank and credit card statements, and recent notices from a healthcare insurer or government agencies. Sometimes, identity thieves send fraudulent statements to try to get you to share your information.
- Begin a paper trail: Once you’ve confirmed identity theft has occurred, start noting every piece of information related to your attempts to clear your name. This includes logging phone calls by date, time, contact and resolution status. Mail documents with a return receipt request so you have a record of those transactions. Some types of fraud have a timeframe for reporting, so create a calendar to ensure you don’t miss any important deadlines.
- File a police report: Notify your local law enforcement agency and request an identity theft report. This will be an important document to have on hand when dealing with banks, credit agencies and potential bill collectors.
- Put a fraud alert on your credit: The three nationwide credit reporting companies share information, so you just need to call one of them to place a fraud alert on your file. This alert will prevent any new credit applications from being accepted without additional verification. Also, the notice stays on your record for 90 days, giving you time to work on clearing your name. You can also renew the alert once the initial 90 days is up.
- Consider a credit freeze: For maximum protection, you may want to put a freeze on your credit, which means potential creditors can’t get your credit report and no new accounts can be opened in your name. Putting a credit freeze in place doesn’t impact your credit score, and this simple identity theft tip can block identity thieves more effectively.
- Create an identity theft report: The FTC provides step-by-step instructions for fraud alerts and credit freezes as well as directions on how to create an identity theft report you can file with the agency. This can help get fraudulent information removed from your credit report and stop collection companies from trying to make you pay for debts caused by identity thieves.
Now that you know what to do if your identity is stolen, be sure to institute some additional precautions in your day-to-day activities such as: using cash rather than debit cards, giving out your Social Security number only when absolutely necessary and increasing security settings on your social media accounts.
Finally, to help prevent future theft, you should increase protection. Thieves have been known to target the same victims multiple times, so getting hit once doesn’t mean you’re immune to identity theft in the future. Follow these tips, and consider 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 be with you every step of the way to help you restore your identity.
Image courtesy of Flickr user Got Credit.