A stolen identity: you hear about it happening to other people. However, you never think it will happen to you. With so many schemes and scams out there trying to snatch your information, it shouldn’t be surprising that for the past 15 years, identity theft has been the top consumer complaint to the FTC. Nineteen people become victims of identity theft every minute. How should you respond if your identity is stolen?
Whether your bank contacts you about unusual charges or spot suspicious activity in your statements, you need to act quickly if you see a problem. As soon as you realize an account has been compromised, immediately contact your bank to dispute charges or shutdown the account.
When you find one compromised account, other information may have been stolen as well. Review all your charges and bank statements to look for unusual charges. Again, if these accounts become compromised, immediately contact the necessary financial institutions to lock them and report fraud.
By law, you may request one free credit report from each reporting agency each year. You can solicit the document through the official website www.AnnualCreditReport.com. Obtain a copy of your credit report and check it for any unfamiliar accounts to see if you have become a victim of stolen identity.
If you have realized that your identity has been stolen, file a report with the Federal Trade Commission. You only need to file a report for identity theft, in which more than one account has been compromised. If only one account has been compromised, this is credit card fraud and you may not need to file a report. You can file a report at FTCComplaintAssistant.gov or 1-877-ID-THEFT.
Even if the police can’t do anything, reporting a stolen identity to them creates a paper trail that shows you actively attempted to resolve the problem. Additionally, your report could help police track down a local identity thief. Reporting with both the FTC and the police helps protect you against other claims.
Contact your credit bureaus and ask for a fraud alert to be placed on your accounts. This precaution requires financial institutions to do an extra verification of account activity and notifies them that your identity has been stolen.
In many cases, financial institutions will advise that you close your existing accounts and create new ones. This process can help you avoid thieves accessing your accounts again.
Your banking habits could put you further at risk, so avoid common mistakes. Create strong passwords and change them frequently. If you dispose of documents containing sensitive information of them, be sure to shred them. Don’t post your phone number or address online (including social media sites). Don’t carry your Social Security card in your wallet. Don’t click unknown links in emails.
Even if you protect your sensitive information, anyone can become a victim of identity theft. In the case of a stolen identity, take these steps to minimize damages and prevent further issues.