If you think you identity has been stolen, as a first step, change your passwords.
You can prevent someone from using your stolen login information by changing the passwords associated with accounts that are reportedly available on the dark web.
Then, set up multi-factor authentication for every account you have that offers it.
The term multi-factor authentication (MFA) refers to an account that requires you to verify your identity using two or more authentication methods. Often, these is your financial accounts.
For instance, you may be required to enter a code sent to your phone when you attempt to access your bank account. When you confirm the code, you are confirming that you know the username and password and that you are in possession of the phone associated with the account.
In the event that your username and password are leaked on the dark web, have multi-factor authentication can help prevent others from accessing your account.
Next, freeze your credit
It is recommended that you freeze your credit reports with all three major credit bureaus, Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax, to prevent someone from opening an account in your name.
When your credit reports are frozen, creditors are unable to access them in order to make new lending decisions. It is still possible to access your credit report for other reasons, such as if you wish to check your credit or if your current creditor wishes to review your report.
During the application process for a new credit card or loan, you will need to temporarily “thaw” or unfreeze your credit reports.
You can do this free of charge and as many times as you wish; however, you will need to contact each credit bureau directly.
How to report identity theft
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.
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.
Recovering from identity theft
The process of resolving an identity theft incident is not a quick one, so you’ll have to be patient and keep detailed notes of everything you do. The credit bureaus should provide you with written confirmation that the fraudulent charges have been removed from your credit report.
You will want to keep an eye on their progress throughout this process, as it could take a while.
Sadly, being a victim of identity theft once does not mean it cannot happen again. Take steps to prevent ID theft and remain alert!