When someone uses your personal information without permission to open an account or access your financial records, that’s identity theft, and it’s a serious crime.
The identity thief may use your information to apply for credit, file taxes, or get medical services. These acts can damage your credit status and cost you time and money to restore your good name.
The following steps should help you if this happens to you.
Step 1: File a claim with your identity theft insurance, if applicable
What is identity theft insurance? It is designed to cover some of the costs related to identity theft.
Identity theft insurance reimburses victims for money spent on reclaiming their financial identities and repairing their credit reports as well as money taken from personal accounts.
Policies often provide specialists who can help guide victims through the identity restoration process as well as being an active monitor for you going forward. They help safeguard your personal information, the data you share, and the relationships you treasure.
Step 2: File a police report
An official report stating that your wallet was lost or stolen will come in handy when dealing with your bank and it will also prove your documents were missing in case of identity theft or fraud.
If you are the victim of further fraud or identity theft down the line, a police report will help serve as evidence that you were, indeed, the victim of a crime.
Some credit card issuers or banks may also want the police report number as part of their fraud investigation.
Step 3: Notify companies of your stolen identity
Call or email the fraud department of the companies, banks, or credit unions where accounts have been compromised. Explain that someone stole your identity and ask them to close or freeze the compromised account.
Step 4: Initiate a fraud alert on your credit report
Contact any of the three credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian or TransUnion, and ask that a free fraud alert be placed on your credit report. Also, ask for a free credit report.
You only need to contact one of the three agencies because the law requires the agency you call to contact the other two.
Once you have a fraud alert on your credit report place, a business must verify your identity before it issues new credit in your name. The alert remains active for a year and can be renewed by you for up to seven years.
Step 5: File a report with the Federal Trade Commission
The FTC compiles information about identity theft cases. It doesn’t have the ability to pursue criminal charges, but its information may be used by law enforcement agencies such as the FBI to track down perpetrators.
To file a report with the FTC, visit www.identitytheft.gov. As part of the reporting process, you’ll receive a recovery plan and even pre-filled letters and forms that can be used to file police reports and dispute fraudulent charges.
Keep in mind that identity theft is defined as impersonating another person or using their information for financial gain. A stolen credit card number or security breach does not have to be reported to the FTC.
Sadly, being a victim of identity theft once does not mean it cannot happen again. Take steps to prevent ID theft and remain alert!
Change the passwords, PINs, and log-in information for all of your potentially affected accounts, including your email accounts, and any accounts that use the same password, pin, or log-in information.