If something doesn’t feel right – or look right – in your accounts and records, it could be that your identity has been stolen. Your best guard against losses is to contact your network of service providers and financial institutions right away.
If you’ve been a victim of identity theft, here’s what to do. Start by freezing your credit and filing a police report, then follow a few more steps to make sure you get your life back under control. Read on for full details.
1. INFORM ALL AFFECTED CREDITORS AND COMPANIES
When your identity is stolen, the criminals may try to cash in on your assets right away or they may have a long-term plan in mind, such as opening a fake account in your name to receive services or benefits.
In any case, you need to notify all the parties that may be affected by any fraudulent activity. Be sure to scan your future statements for any unusual activity, too.
A list of affected creditors and companies may include:
- Your credit union and any other credit card issuers: Tell them to freeze your accounts and issue new cards.
- The IRS: Alert them that someone might try to file a fraudulent tax return in your name.
- Your health insurance company: Alert them someone might try to make false claims in your name.
- Your phone and internet provider. Let them know someone might be trying to charge services to your account or open new accounts.
2. FILE A POLICE REPORT
While the police might not be able to catch the criminal right away, it’s a good idea to file a police report, and here’s why:
- You create an official paper trail about your identity theft.
- You can refer back to the police report if fraudulent activity shows up in your accounts at any future date.
- You’ll have support for any insurance claims you may need to make.
3. CONTACT THE CREDIT AGENCIES
There are three main credit reporting agencies and you should reach out to all of them and let them know your identity has been stolen, or that you suspect you’ve suffered identity theft.
Identity theft – what to do about your credit report:
- Fraud alert: Request the credit agencies place a fraud alert on your reports. This is valid for a year and will lend you support to dispute any fraudulent activity later.
- Freeze your credit: Ask the agencies to freeze your credit so no companies can get your credit report, which means the criminal won’t be able to open any accounts in your name. Note that you won’t be able to open any new accounts during that time either.
- Regular review: Once you’ve ended the freeze, regularly review your credit reports for mystery transactions and accounts.
4. CONSIDER FILING A REPORT WITH THE FTC
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) compiles data about all reports of identity theft and can find trends that may allow them to catch criminals or prevent this kind of crime from happening.
The FTC also offers a comprehensive guide of what to do if your identity is stolen. Here are the three simple steps:
- Tell them what happened.
- Get a recovery plan.
- Put your plan into action.
5. FILE A CLAIM WITH YOUR IDENTITY THEFT INSURANCE
Depending on your provider and policy, identity theft insurance may help you cover the costs of securing your identity after it has been stolen.
These expenses may include:
- Legal and notary fees
- Lost wages and money spent on child care
- Getting more than the usual number of copies of your credit report
- Phone calls and mailing costs
Note that identity theft insurance might not reimburse you for any money lost through fraudulent activity – that will hopefully be covered by your financial institution or credit card issuer.
IDENTITY THEFT: WHAT TO DO NEXT
Having your identity stolen is a stressful experience that can affect many parts of your life. The most important thing to do is reach out and let various people know what happened so they can help minimize and contain the damage.
In addition, you might want to explore paying for a theft recovery service that can help you restore your name and clear any suspicious activity off your records. Click below to find out more and start feeling safer today!